2002: Superintendent News - Custom-built pump rises to challenges of elevation

By Don Dale

Mesquite, Nev.

Wolf Creek at Paradise Canyon Resort in Mesquite, Nev., opened Oct. 13, a Friday. But that wasn’t an unlucky day for this course notched into canyons near the Utah state line.

The irrigation system, in particular, has functioned well at Wolf Creek. Designed to lift water to varying levels on a golf course that ranges from 1,600 to 1,850 feet of elevation, no margin of error is allowed.

“The problem is the elevation changes,” said superintendent Kelby Hughes.“We have high-flow zones and low-flow zones, and they run throughout the course. Today it’s the largest golf course pump station built by Flowtronex.”

An engineering gem, the station has the capacity to pump 3,800 gallons per minute of irrigation water and 800 gpm of potable water. It also is designed to pump another 3,800 gallons of water to an adjacent course being built now by Wolf Creek’s developers, the father-and-son team of Dennis and Jon Rider of Mesquite’s Horizon Golf.

The system includes 30 million gallons of storage in golf course lakes. That amount equals nine days of emergency pumping in case of problems drawing water from a Mesquite canal supplying Wolf Creek. The irrigation project cost about $3 million of the $20 million spent on the course.

Power for the 13 pumps custom built by Flowtronex is provided by five 100-hp motors, one 75-hp motor and two 40-hp motors. The two 40s are designed to provide circulating water for a waterfall and stream. In addition, there is a separate delivery system at the canal, with three 125-hp motors that push the water 2 miles uphill to the golf course.

This type of horsepower is necessitated by the dramatic terrain of an 18-hole course where a single hole could have turf at several elevations. As a result, two separate delivery pipe systems were laid, one for higher zones of elevation and one for lower zones.

“In fact,” Hughes said, “some holes go from high-zone to low-zone, and then back to high-zone.”

Designed by Winchester and Associates, an engineering firm in Salt Lake City, the system is housed in a 40-foot-by-40 foot concrete bunker located near the bottom of the course. Visitors might not notice it, however, since it is buried under soil covered with turf.

Inside the bunker, two large sand media filters clean the water going into the lines. The bunker, susceptible to overheating in summer, also has a unique cooling system. A large fan draws cool air from the course’s 72-inch central rainfall drain pipe and pumps it into the bunker, which also has a removable section of roof to facilitate heat exhaust.

A 16-inch pipe delivers water from the canal to the pump station. From there, two pipes measuring 14 inches, three measuring 12 inches, one 8-incher and one 6-incher carry water to the course. The 6-inch pipe transports potable water for greens and drinking water. The network is so complicated that Hughes took numerous digital photos of the pipes and wrote notes designating the use of each pipe.

Much of the construction was done in-house by Hughes’ crew, including the final design and installation of sprinkler heads.

“We would start out from the green and work back to the tee,” Hughes said of installing about 1,800 Rain Bird heads operated by Rain Bird Cirrus and Freedom controllers. “That was in case we would have to change the spacing somewhere. It wouldn’t be around the greens.”

Hughes also installed 600 to 650 Hunter I-20 heads in small areas or where rolling terrain required a more precise throw.

Then-assistant superintendent Brian Haviland had the job of programming irrigation on the morass of lines and heads, using least 20 separate programs. Sprinkler heads and valves were GPS-mapped to be easily found.

The course also has more than 100 low-pressure regulators for the drip irrigation lines that water desert vegetation accenting the course. The landscaping is xeric in keeping with the Horizon Golf philosophy of keeping its courses as natural as possible.

Don Dale is a Hollywood, Calif.-based free-lance writer.

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