Golf Course Irrigation
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Golf Course Irrigation

By their nature, golf course irrigation systems call for a unique set of design techniques. In fact, we had golf course irrigation systems specifically in mind when engineering some of the familiar Irrigation F/X tools.

Golf Course–Specific Irrigation Requirements

Whether you design a golf course with 9 or 18 holes, you'll be working with a vast and tract of land, often with undulating terrain. Adding to the challenge is the divided nature of the course – not just into holes, but into fairways, tees, and greens. Each of these areas will potentially have a different type of ground cover with specific water and maintenance needs. The inherent challenges of golf course design include:



High Water Demand

The sheer size of a golf course notwithstanding, keeping all that grass lush and green requires a lot of water. Golf courses are notorious guzzlers, making efficiency all the more critical. Your system will need to maximize coverage while avoiding wasting water.



Constant Maintenance

Maintenance and groundskeeping are daily needs on golf courses. Design of irrigation systems must take these needs into account – allowing for easy shutoff in multiple areas, for example, to allow staff to maintain the grasses.



Groundskeeper/Greenskeeper Flexibility

In line with the maintenance requirements is the need to offer the groundskeepers and greenskeepers maximum flexibility in performing their duties. Allowing for this flexibility translates into some complexities that make the correct design of the irrigation system even more crucial.

Placing the Emitters (Heads/Sprinklers)

First, you'll place your emitter heads throughout the course. A golf course consists of a series of logically divided areas – tees, fairways, and greens on each hole. For each of these areas, you'll be creating a Flow Zone to control and limit the flow (GPM) coming into that area. For now, you'll group your rotors in such a way that you can group them into a logical Flow Zone.


Valve-in-Head Rotors


Each emitter in a golf course irrigation system should be a valve-in-head (VIH) rotor, meaning each head acts as its own valve.




These emitters will have a sizable radius and will provide an ample amount of flow for a golf course's water needs.

Valve-in-head rotors are generally piped with constantly pressurized pipe, which, by definition, is mainline. However, you should use our Lateral Pipe tool to pipe to and between VIH rotors. Why? Because our system allows areas connected with lateral pipe to be turned into separate stations or zones – plus many designers refer to these pipes as "laterals." The system will recognize the valves in the heads and will treat the pipe as if it's mainline – because it technically is. For more information, see our VIH rotors page.




Labeling the Emitters

If you choose to, you can label your rotors at any point in the design process. When labeling valve-in-head rotors, you'll use our Valve Callout tool.

Shut-Off Valves (Isolation Valves)

Once you've laid out your valve-in-head rotors, it's time to place your shut-off valves. Each area of grouped emitters – each of which will become a flow zone – will contain subfeeder loops of lateral pipe. Each of these loops will require shut-off valves to isolate it from the rest of the system.




Shut-off valves are available as an option from the Valves menu in the Irrigation Manager.

For specific instructions, see our documentation pages on Adding Valves to a Project and Placing Valves in a Drawing.




Shut-off valves give the groundskeeper the ability to block flow from a given area of the golf course in order to perform maintenance. For proper isolation, each flow zone will require two shut-off valves. For example, you would place a shut-off valve at each end of a loop of rotors covering a fairway, as pictured below.

Including two shut-off valves in this group of rotors, which will become a contiguous piped loop, will allow it to be shut off in both directions. This in turn will prevent water from doubling back on itself and breaking the irrigation system when the valves are shut off.


Opening and Closing Shut-Off Valves


You can set a shut-off valve to be open or closed.



Setting a shut-off valve to closed blocks all flow downstream of that valve. When you verify your connections using our Highlight Station tool, it won’t highlight those areas. When you size the mainline, it won’t size in those areas.

For golf course design, we recommend setting shut-off valves to Closed in all flow zones but one (such as a fairway or green) before sizing the mainline. You can then size the mainline one zone at a time – opening the valves in areas to size while closing the rest – and working your way throughout the course in this way.




To select and edit a shut-off valve you've already placed, use the View Data/Edit Equipment tool. With this tool selected, you can then click each shut-off valve to open the Equipment Info dialog box (pictured above). There, you can set the valve to open or closed.

Water Source

Use our Source Data tool, available from the Irrigation Manager, to configure and place your water source.

For specific instructions, see our Source Data documentation page.

Mainline and Lateral Line Piping

Golf course irrigation systems typically have a large feeder mainline looped around the course, outside the tees and fairways. We'll draw this mainline loop using the Draw Mainline Pipe tool.

For specific instructions, see our target="blank"Mainline Piping documentation.



The mainline will connect the water source with the shut-off valves in each group of rotors that will become a flow zone. Here's a simplified example:

Technically, all piping in our golf course system design will be mainline, in that it will be charged with water from the source. However, we want the system to recognize the difference between the outer loop and the inner loops of pipe connecting the rotors grouped into each flow zone.



For this reason, we'll use the Draw Lateral Pipe tool to connect all valve-in-head rotors with both shut-off valves in each flow zone. In this way, the valves will connect the mainline with the lateral line and, eventually, the rotors.

For specific instructions on drawing lateral pipe, see our Lateral Line Piping documentation.

Drawing the inner pipe loops using the Draw Lateral Pipe tool provides visual distinction from the mainline loops. More importantly, it speeds up and simplifies the mainline sizing process. If we used mainline everywhere, the system would become confused because it wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the feeder mainline and the interior line.

You'll only be able to connect lateral line to isolation valve if you've added a valve-in-head rotor to your project.

If you have quick coupler valves in your golf course design, you can pipe to them with lateral pipe. If you go from a mainline to a quick coupler, the system will assign the minimum pipe size to that pipe because quick coupler valves have no real demand.

Placing Spot Elevations

Elevation markers are important in golf course designs, where terrain tends to vary drastically. Our software provides a handy way to place grade point annotations quickly: our Spot Elevation tool.

For specific instructions, see our Spot Elevation documentation.


The image below shows elevation markers placed using our Spot Elevation tool.




Elevation markers placed with the Spot Elevation tool are "smart," meaning that any piece of irrigation equipment in the drawing will respect the nearest Spot Elevation marker when you size the mainline. For this reason, it's a good idea to place Spot Elevations liberally, in any locations you feel are important. The equipment will look for the nearest marker and grab that elevation.


If you type your elevations manually, your irrigation equipment won't recognize them. In other words, they'll be "dumb" rather than "smart." Save yourself time and headaches by getting to know the Spot Elevation tool.

Sizing the Pipe

Before sizing the mainline, it's a good idea to ensure that all equipment is properly connected using our Verify Mainline tool. You can then follow our instructions to Size the Mainline.

Sizing the mainline can take a very long time. When you size the mainline for a golf course, we recommend using the Edit Equipment tool to select various shut-off valves and setting them to Closed, eventually leaving only a single green or fairway connected. In this manner, you can size the pipes for a single area, verify it is sized correctly, then close the valves leading to it, and open the valves for the next area. And so on, through the course. For information on selecting and closing shut-off valves, see Opening and Closing Shut-Off Valves above.

When sizing the mainline, select the option for Multiple Valves Operating at a Time. This option will allow you to set a Maximum Mainline Flow (example: 100 GPM).




Select the option to Use Spot Elevations for Valve Elevations.



This option allows the valves to recognize the Spot Elevations you set earlier.




When you click OK, Irrigation F/X will check all connections along the piped components, starting at the water source and proceeding downstream through the mainline to the shut-off valves, lateral line, and rotors. The system will analyze all possible paths from the source to the shut-off valves, as well as from the shut-off valves to interior rotors.



The system will automatically label the mainline with a size. In our example, the mainline has been sized at 2 inches.



You'll also use the Mainline Size dialog box to create your Flow Zones. See the Flow Zones section below.



Because the pipes within each Flow Zone we'll create will technically be mainline, we'll size those pipes by simply labeling them using the Pipe Label tool.

For information on labeling pipes, see our Pipe Labels documentation page.



In the example below, we've labeled one of the lateral pipes in the group of valve-in-head rotors. The system has automatically assigned a pipe size of 1 1/2 inches and labeled the pipe accordingly.


The Pipe Label tool allows you to add, move, and delete labels. For more information, see our documentation sections on Pipe Label Cleanup and Adding and Deleting a Pipe Label.

Flow Zones

Flow Zones are designed to limit the flow in a defined area. We created our Flow Zone tool with golf courses in mind, although Flow Zones are also applicable to other uses.

For detailed information, see our Flow Zones documentation page.



The Flow Zone tool is built into the Size Mainline tool.



To create a Flow Zone, click New Flow Zone while sizing the mainline.




When prompted, enter a Maximum Multi-valve Flow (example: 50 GPM).




You can now create your Flow Zone by drawing a closed window around a group of rotors and valves. When you close your polyline window, the Maximum Flow you set for the zone will appear as a label next to the Flow Zone boundary.



For maximum accuracy, zoom into the area where you draw the Flow Zone window. You won't be allowed to create Flow Zones within Flow Zones.


Remember to draw your Flow Zone window so it completely encompasses all equipment you want it to include.


You can continue to create Flow Zones throughout your golf course design. No matter how many rotors you want to run at a time, each flow zone will maintain the maximum flow you set when creating it.




Making Changes to a Flow Zone

If you want to move the boundary of an existing flow zone, click it and move the pick points as needed.



You can also double-click the label text and change the value of the flow zone.

Troubleshooting a Golf Course Design

The best way to troubleshoot your golf course design is to run a Valve Schedule.



The Valve Schedule will show all numbers having to do with mainline sizing, including the required pressure and flow at each valve. You can then cross-check the Valve Schedule with your design to address any issues with flow or pressure at a specific valve.

Related Webinars

  • Golf Course Irrigation: We'll demonstrate some of the great tools Irrigation F/X offers to help ensure proper mainline sizing and scheduling. We'll also discuss the use of using flow zones, shut-off valves, and valve-in-head rotors. (1 hr 4 min)
  • Irrigation Tools – What You Need to Know: We'll show you the ins and outs of basic irrigation setup using our software. You'll also learn the essentials of placing equipment such as drip, sprays, and rotors. (1 hr 6 min)
  • Making HDPE the Best It Can Be: Gregg Sorensen of Landscape Unlimited provides insight into HDPE systems from the installation crew’s perspective. (1 hr 4 min)
  • Irrigation Tips & Tricks: We'll show you some advanced tools you may or may not know about. You'll also learn techniques and best practices that will help speed up your workflow. (1 hr 3 min)
  • Existing Irrigation: Learn the techniques, tools, and tricks you'll need to expand an existing system, including how to use a pipe cap to account for existing flow and add new valves to an existing mainline. (56 min)
  • Advanced Irrigation Troubleshooting: Learn to think like a Land F/X irrigation troubleshooter. We'll show you why your symbols don't match, why you would see the message "Error accessing equipment data" (and how to fix these issues, as well as tips on pressure losses and precip rates, pipe caps, system monitors, and flow zones. (1 hr 3 min)
Last modified on Monday, 16 May 2022 16:26
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