Greener Fairways & Good Deeds

How drainage made a big difference for a golf course and their community

When it comes to golf course planning, a developer’s focus is location, location, location. For landscape architects and contractors creating a scenically manicured 18 hole experience, their mantra is drainage, drainage, drainage.

Having the right pipe in place for specific terrains and soil types saves a substantial amount of water. Perfect conditions on the greens are critical, much like they are in the agricultural fields. Both require solutions for heavy downpours, standing water and drainage reliability. The water footprints left behind in both golf and ag industries impose on the planet’s resources. That’s why Fratco takes sustainability seriously. Soggy fields do not allow seeds to grow well. Golf course managers cannot book tee times on flooded or desert-dry courses. Farmers cannot have adequate crop growth if their soil is dehydrated. Players cringe at teeing off on ground reminiscent of concrete floors. Finding the perfect balance with the proper drainage makes all the difference.

WATER USAGE AND SUSTAINABILITY

Claiming the golf industry uses a hefty amount of water to maintain its aesthetic is an understatement. Private and municipal courses around the US pump a total of 2.08 billion gallons of water daily to irrigate turfs. That’s 130,000 gallons per course, per day, which is a lot in terms of output. It can make it even more challenging in areas with considerable drought or water restrictions. Golf course drainage and efficient watering go hand-in-hand. Watering plants and greens by manually, not full-blast systems on timers, is time consuming yet saves water. Groundskeepers know turning on a deluge of sprinklers is not always necessary nor efficient watering. Measuring water amounts is a precise science all its own, consisting of soil measurements, moisture readings and adjustments for rain showers or even blazing heat. Too much water on the greens kills grass. Without enough watering, the grass dies. Finding the perfect balance takes time and patience—just another day at the office for those in the greens business.

WATER ISSUES AT EXTREMES

Investing in the environment— installing drainage—keeps resource vulnerability low and negative impact at bay so operations can harmonize and work within their habitat. There is a purpose behind shaping and constructing golf course drainage layouts. They consider the area’s soil conditions, the best turf for the climate and whether grass dormancy is a good thing in the regions experiencing intense seasons. Grounds that consist of constantly shifting soil due to weather or climate require meticulous surveying, a hindrance to busy maintenance schedules that could be served elsewhere.

In golf, saving and redirecting water matters. Courses with water issues tend to lean towards extremes: unplayable, deluged fairways and greens or arid, desert-like conditions. Nowhere for the water to retreat to or mounting watering bills to keep it playable. This is why having the right pipe in place matters, whether a course is located in Nevada’s mountains or a Midwestern valley. Lush, carpeted greens must be the norm, not the exception, to keep tee times on the books. Sloping hills, waterways, rock formations and intricate landscapes are all part of watershed planning. Whether they are artificial or natural features, watersheds are drainage basins that channel water towards outflow points. These catchments whisk water away from the greens towards larger pools to draw upon later.

KNOW WHEN IT’S TIME TO IMPROVE THE GREENS

Facility managers know the pressure of keeping courses ready for play. Days with golfers scheduled to tee off back-to-back along with inclement weather can pose a challenge. When the soil under the turf is compacted from foot traffic pressure or overloaded by saturation, it needs as much intervention as it can receive.

When course managers and groundskeepers have aerated, reseeded, reduced watering and tried every trick in the turf management book on saturated or dehydrated grounds, it’s time to invest in new drainage. Installing pipe removes groundwater that inhibits play, builds up water stores and provides golfers those coveted greens they dream of playing on. Although golf course drainage projects can vary in size and scope, not all greens require a complete demo of the property to improve. For smaller installs, areas are player-ready a day or so after pipe installation.

The process of installing pipe is simple. First, the site is visited. The greens and fairways are surveyed to note valleys, slopes and other natural or manmade characteristics. It’s imperative to establish the best direction for drainage design from the tee box to the sand traps. Next, the sod is cut and carefully rolled to replace later. Once the pipe is installed, a greens mix is applied. Its job is to direct water towards the pipe and the water stores. The sod is replaced precisely and tamped until level. Once the greens are blown and debris is removed, it’s game time. Players can tee off and grounds managers can rest easy knowing the rainiest or driest of days are no match for Fratco products.

Installing pipe is a win-win. Drainage means the courses are available for play even after the heaviest of storms and the clouds are long gone. When turf managers consider the price of having to cancel tee times due to oversaturated courses versus the investment in drainage solutions, contractors hear from clients they wish they had made the leap sooner.

HOW FRATCO IS HELPING MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Dow Dellinger is one of the general managers of Tippecanoe Country Club in Monticello, Indiana. Golf has been one of the loves of his life for over 45 years. Dellinger has played many courses and knows what makes good turf. When you ask about his ideal day on the greens, he laughs. “With my game, there is no perfect day anymore.” With his busy schedule, Dellinger is just happy to get out and play from time-to- time. Yet the perfect day and the perfect course eluded him in Monticello.

For years, the Tippecanoe Country Club’s golf course experienced multiple water issues. This golf course is essential to area residents who love to play and whose children attend affordable camps and learn to play the game. On the back nine, where the drainage system met the pond, flooding ruined turf and would render several holes unplayable for days after torrential rains. Drainage was not happening efficiently. The galvanized pipe installed decades before was filled with mud. There was definitely a need for improvement.

Always ready to lend a hand in the community, Fratco worked with Dellinger and the country club’s team in 2019 by donating pipe to improve drainage. “We could never have completed the work without Fratco,” Dellinger quickly adds as he recalls the story. He also mentions a relic unearthed as repairs were underway. “After we took away the galvanized steel drainage, we noticed original clay tile underneath. It was practically pristine. After wiping the dirt from the company imprint, we realized it was Fratco’s.” Estimated that it was installed in the 1950s, it was a fantastic find and no surprise to Fratco that 70 years later, it remained in like-new condition.

Once the new Fratco pipe was in place, the change was immediate. No more flooding. No more damaged turf. Lots of players on the course. There was another surprising benefit Dellinger mentioned. “There are homes built along the back nine of the course that had experienced water issues for years.” Flooded basements. Standing water in yards. A real mess for neighbors. This Fratco fix on the course became an unforeseen solution. “The homeowners were thrilled,” Dellinger shares. “Without Fratco, this would’ve never happened, and our project wouldn’t have been completed.” A thirty-year problem for those with homes on the county roads behind the club was now over. It’s incredible how one random act of kindness led to something greater for the neighborhood at-large.

Yet the giving didn’t stop with Fratco’s donation two years ago. The Tippecanoe Country Club continues passing it on. During the summer days of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, when golf courses could once again open to players, the club welcomed children to play for free. “We are a part of a community that believes in giving back to others,” Dellinger shares. “Fratco made that possible, and we will never forget it.”

Fratco drainage installation at Tippecanoe Country Club