An Evolution of Irrigation – Golf Course Industry

He hasn’t really penetrated yet. Two years ago, the director Bill Hamilton finally mustered the money and the will to replace the outdated, leaking irrigation system at Lake Wildwood Golf Club, an hour northeast of Sacramento, California. He does not miss this main asbestos line which has been collapsing for 50 years. Not at all. It’s just that Hamilton can’t quite believe he’ll never see him – or his replacement – ever again. He didn’t quite calculate.

Hamilton opted for an all-poly AquaFuse irrigation package supplied by CMF Global and then installed by course contractor Heritage Links. All underground components featured thermoplastic HDPE pipes, melted and fused together to form a single monolithic HDPE irrigation system. With no joints or stops anywhere in this system, Hamilton understood that there was a limit to what could go wrong in 10, 20 or 40 years.

“By then I will be long gone,” he said. “My replacement will probably be long gone too.”

HDPE technology has been around for quite some time. But when Hamilton realized that even the gate valves in the system would be all-poly ball valves—instead of the vertical metal gate valves that so many irrigation systems had depended on for decades—he was faced with a reality. very new and quite nice.

“Poly has a long history in the oil and gas industry; this is my understanding. The cast iron valve is the last thing to leave,” Hamilton said. “If you ask me about trade-offs, I can’t say there was one: the poly valve is so bulletproof. Honestly, I wonder if you even need that much of valves. With the welded pipe, it’s basically a pipe through the whole system, where the joints are stronger than the pipe itself. They say it’s going to last 40 to 50 years but honestly, we don’t know how long it’s going to last. The system is so good now that it won’t fail unless you break it yourself – if you put a digger in it or something. The weakest link is the sprinkler head.

“It is sometimes difficult to see more clearly. A superintendent traditionally spends a lot of time and effort fixing an irrigation system. We certainly did. But this deal is maintenance free. It has made my life and that of my crew so much more enjoyable.

According to Tim Hubbard, Vice President of Irrigation at Houston-based Heritage Links, the pace of change in this specific area of ​​yard construction/renovation has exceeded the lived experience of many superintendents and yard owners – the people who most directly experience the inefficiencies of a leaking irrigation system. These are also the people, Hubbard said, who eventually have to pull the trigger to replace or upgrade these systems.

Even an old, leaky system that deploys outdated technology remains familiar to these guys, Hubbard said. Superintendents understand potential problems and become adept at solving them. However, as Hamilton experienced first-hand at Lake Wildwood, the all-poly irrigation life is a more efficient, carefree life.

“All-poly ball valves, like HDPE piping itself, are easy to install and easy to use,” Hubbard said. “Sometimes they’re not so readily available, but supply chain issues have affected so many things these days. I have a feeling that lately HDPE ball valves are more readily available than cast iron gate valves. And the price of poly ball valves is comparable to cast iron valves.

“There are some things that supers have to get used to: The majority of piping in a golf irrigation system is 6-8 inches in diameter. Maybe a handful of 10s and 12s. When filling initial of a system, you can have 120 PSI on that ball, in the ball valve, so there’s a bypass system, which fills the downstream side and equalizes the pressure, before releasing it I tell people to leave them both [the main valve and bypass] open for operation. If you must stop, close the main line first, then the smaller bypass valve.

“So a superintendent must develop a knowledge of these systems, just like anything else. They also need to distract themselves from the fact that there is only a 90 degree turn to allow for the most force. They should back off a bit and not overtighten the smaller valve. It’s a new technology. There is some education involved, but it’s not rocket science.

Heritage Links recently installed a similar all-poly system, piping and gate valves, for the Superintendent Aaron Englehart at the BraeBurn Country Club in Houston. This work was remarkable on several fronts: First, according to Hubbard, it was one of the first projects where the choice to use all-poly ball joints was made at no extra cost. In other words, there was no premium attached to this new technology, over the cast-iron option, he says.

This is a natural and inevitable pricing phenomenon once a new technology is widely accepted, according to Chris Mennon, Head of Technical and Sales at CMF Global. This shift has happened even faster than expected here in the North American golf market because “internationally, the United States is a bit behind,” Menno said. “The all-poly approach is already widespread in Europe, and it’s easy to see why. So much less can go wrong. The AquaFuse brand that we created under CMF, it represents a set of materials where we have selected the best of the best. All the resins we used to make the poly are virgin resins. We have found the best pipes, valves and fittings. Once we’re 100% HDPE, it’s all backed by the AquaFuse 25-year warranty, which covers every piece of black plastic in the project.

“At this point, it all depends on how it is set up. We have trained all the best installers, like Heritage Links. They are as expert in these processes as they are in everything they do.

At BraeBurn, Hubbard and the team at Heritage Links took the state of the art another notch when they successfully connected the all-poly irrigation system directly to the pump station discharge pipe. . Menno, for his part, was impressed: “They went from inside the pumphouse – an 8-inch steel pipe, flat-faced bolted joint – and started merging from that point, above ground, with the rest of the network. All poly, all merged. Not a single retaining, glue or push block mechanical seal.

If the era of all-poly irrigation fills superintendents like Hamilton with a sense of wonder, Hubbard and Menno aren’t far behind. Technology addresses and solves so many problems, Hubbard said. He pointed out that full poly piping and ball valves represent another massive step forward for any property with high salt irrigation water or acidic/corrosive soils. In most situations where traditional ductile iron fittings and valves corrode and fail, HDPE will not.

“There’s a phrase used in evaluating irrigation systems called allowable leakage,” Menno said. “A municipal water main, even brand new, is expected and allowed to leak a certain amount and pass inspection. Different formulas exist for pipes of certain sizes, but a typical jointed PVC system of yesteryear can actually lose up to 335,000 gallons per year, due to leaks, and they still pass an allowable leak test! It’s amazing what was considered “tight”. Because we’ve eliminated bolts, gaskets, and retainers with the all-poly approach, we get essentially zero allowable leaks. It just won’t happen.

“In irrigation,” Hubbard added, “what we are seeing now is just the tip of the iceberg. We are seeing accelerated aging tests that show these products can last 100 years in installed properties. If you put it in the ground now, even a child born today who grows up to be a golf course superintendent will never see or process a main line in their irrigation system. Not in his lifetime. »

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