Founded in 1891 and established on its present site at Torksey since 1903, Lincoln Golf Club’s course was designed originally by five times Open champion JH Taylor. It sits on sandy ground a few miles west of the cathedral city, ground that was originally open heath, but whose character has been changed by more than a century of management for golf and by planting.
The light, sandy soil at Torksey supports a sward of grass on the golf course that is dominated by fescue. Fescues are generally among the most drought-resistant of grasses and need relatively little artificial irrigation in normal British conditions.
The club – which is quite progressive and forward-thinking – was aware that, in the current market, it needed to be investing in its course to move forward, or face being seen by golfers as a stick in the mud and thus lose renown. To this end, it installed a new Hunter irrigation system covering greens, tees and approaches three years ago.
Then the extreme weather of 2018 hit. Lincoln, like golf courses across the UK, was heavily affected by the severe drought of that summer. Even the drought-resistant fescue was unable to cope with the lack of water for an extended period, and the club lost a lot of its fairway grasses. It became clear to club leadership, including greens chair Rob Mellors and course manager Adrian Kitchinson, that the extension of the irrigation system to cover fairways too was of the utmost importance and urgency.
Fortunately, the club had been foresighted originally. The irrigation system it installed might only cover tees and greens, but it had, to an extent, been future-proofed, in that the mainline pipe was sized to allow for an extension to cover fairways if needed at a later date. This saved the club a great deal of money and heartache – it would have been tough indeed to dig up a mainline installed only months previously because it was not now big enough to cope with need. This was a particularly smart move on the club’s behalf, because in no way was it committed at the time to the later installation of fairway watering, until their hand was forced by the 2018 drought.
Naturally, one of the questions that is asked on any irrigation installation is ‘Where is the water coming from?’ At Lincoln, this was a real issue, as, again, they had calculated their need for the greens and tees, and had sourced enough water for that. However, some digging around by Mellors revealed that an underground watercourse flowed beneath the golf course, so the club was able to tap into it and divert some of the flow to an irrigation reservoir.
Working with irrigation contractor Arden Lea and an independent advisor, the club had a plan for fairway installation drawn up. This plan featured a double row system with a number of part-circle heads to ensure accurate distribution of water, but there was one key problem: the cost was beyond Lincoln’s resources. It was at this point that we at Hunter became more closely involved in the project. By using our G885D decoder in head rotors in a single row, controlled by our Pilot-CCS software system, we were able to achieve the coverage and uniformity the club needed at a significantly more affordable cost.
The system was installed early during the 2019 season, although getting contractors was something of a challenge – Arden Lea, like all their competition, were very busy at the time because of fallout from 2018’s drought. Nevertheless, they came in and installed the new system six holes at a time, and Kitchinson and his team followed them through overseeding the newly irrigated fairways. It was an interesting project – when we went in to mark out the new sprinkler positions, club staff had to tell us exactly where the fairway lines should be, because they had lost so much grass there was no distinction between fairway and rough. Several months on, the fairways were back in good condition and the club is now in a strong position to move forward. They are working with architect Ken Moodie on a significant programme of design changes, with one aim being to restore the heathland environment to the course.
The success of this project is testimony to all those involved, but especially Rob and Adrian from the club, who ensured that, despite the immediate need to restore fairways to good playing conditions, nothing was done on the hop, and the whole project was thought through so it was in the best long term interests of the club. We at Hunter are proud to have been involved.
Mark Ganning is northern Europe area manager for Hunter Industries
This article first appeared in the October 2020 issue of Golf Course Architecture. For a printed subscription or free digital edition, please visit our subscriptions page.