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Golf Course Superintendents

Poppy Hills is Leading the Way in Water Conservation and Efficiency


t’s been stated by many during the current Cali- fornia drought that water is the new oil. Nowhere is this truer than the Mon- terey Peninsula, where water prices can exceed $5,000 per acre-foot. When the NCGA and Robert Trent Jones II Golf Course Architects undertook the extensive renovation of Poppy Hills in 2013, they were charged with putting together a game plan for the conservation of a commod- ity in high demand along the California coast. The group partnered

with Toro distributor Turf Star to replace the 28-year- old irrigation system with a state-of-the-art system and technology package. To begin the process,

Toro’s PrecisionSense site assessment service was used to gather data. This mobile sensing technol- ogy collects information

on soil moisture, turf vigor, salinity, compaction and elevation on an existing golf course, and then generates Geographic Information Systems maps that aid with the overall system design and management. “PrecisionSense pro-

vided critical information on where we were using water effectively and ineffectively,” said GCSAA superinten- dent Matt Muhlenbruch, who was hired to oversee the grow-in of the course. “It allowed us to identify problem spots (both wet and dry) that had developed over the years, and set the table for the system installation.” The irrigation system

installation, which included variable-drive controlled pump stations that gear up only when needed (signifi- cantly reducing energy costs and reducing the course’s environmental footprint), was completed in July 2013.

Other components of the Toro system included a GDC 2-wire field control module, a Turf Guard wire- less soil monitoring system and a Toro Lynx Central Control System to manage it all.

The GDC 2-wire field

control module uses a two- wire path to communicate to buried control units, and allows the pump station and weather station to integrate seamlessly. The GDC uses less wire than traditional systems, and provides a high level of efficiency. The Turf Guard wire- less soil monitoring system features 54 sensors that measure current moisture content in the soil and provides information used in controlling individual sprinkler heads (more than 1,900). The system can adjust the degree of arc of water distribution to ensure even, efficient irrigation. “The sensors allow our maintenance crew to pinpoint when and where we need water,” said Muhlenbruch. “It’s real-time information (updated every 5 minutes) and takes the guesswork out of the equation, which improves the playability of the golf course.” Overseeing the entire

PrecisionSense gives superintendent Matt Muhlenbruch control over more than 2,000 individual sprinkler heads.

irrigation operation is the Lynx Central Control System, which allows Poppy Hills to have all its critical irrigation informa- tion available in a single interface. The system is

organized by area and hole, and features the ability to irrigate by inches or min- utes. In addition, the central control system features a complete diagnostic com- ponent that alerts Muhlen- bruch to stations, holes or areas that are not function- ing properly. “The ability of the cen-

tral control system to im- mediately identify problems saves us time, resources and contributes to the bottom line of the facility,” said Muhlenbruch. A reports module

follows the day’s irrigating activity and provides a com- plete summary of how the system performed, allowing the maintenance crew to make adjustments for future watering schedules. The installation of the

Toro system, combined with the design and routing efforts of RTJ II, which included the entire course being capped with 5 inches of sand, allowed Poppy Hills to reduce its irrigated acreage from 82 to 62 acres. “The renovation project has been a model example of how our industry can work together to provide solutions to the water issue while still providing excep- tional playing surfaces,” said Muhlenbruch. “I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”

Jeff Jensen serves as the Southwest field staff representative for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America covering Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada.

FALL 2014 / NCGA.ORG / 63

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