High-tech water management at Pebble Beach

The resort’s new Rain Bird IC system gave the maintenance team a big edge in getting the course U.S. Open-ready.



Rain Bird IC system
The central control system for Pebble Beach’s Rain Bird IC irrigation system, in the main offices of the maintenance facility.

Pebble Beach assistant superintendent Jack Holt helped prepare for what is his fifth and final U.S. Open this year at Pebble Beach, as retirement calls after Holt’s nearly four decades at the course.

Clearly, the tools, techniques and technologies that go into pulling off an event of this magnitude have changed immeasurably between Holt’s first U.S. Open in 1982 and the run-up to this week’s championship. But when you ask the 19-year GCSAA member whether he can pinpoint one advancement that aided the team at Pebble Beach more than any other as they readied for this U.S. Open, he doesn’t hesitate.

“Our new irrigation system ... what a difference that had made,” Holt says of Pebble Beach’s Rain Bird IC system, which was installed in stages in 2011 and 2012. “So much more efficient, so much more precise. A lot of the things you had to concern yourself with the older system, you just don’t have to worry about with newer systems like this one. It allowed us to focus attention on other things as we prepped for this event.”

Because of the near-constant flow of big events at Pebble Beach and the regular resort play for golfers crossing something off their bucket lists, planning and executing something as involved as an irrigation renovation was an exacting process. The course focused on installing a new mainline in 2011, and then replaced individual heads and other infrastructure in 2012.

Rain Bird Pebble Beach
Pebble Beach has more than 80 customized schedules developed to irrigate the property. All but a handful have been turned off for the week of the U.S. Open, as most of the course is being hand-watered as needed during the championship.

And while the new Rain Bird IC System is largely out of sight, out of mind this week because hand watering has replaced the irrigation system for the U.S. Open, the finished product has been just what the doctor ordered for Pebble Beach’s staff. The ability to remove satellite control boxes from the course — which aren’t necessary with the IC system — has improved aesthetics on the property. And the precision and flexibility offered by the IC system plus its ability to provide individual control of heads throughout the property have improved conditions across the board, even in areas that had seriously tested the previous irrigation system.

“There is absolutely an improvement in conditions, because we can be so precise with where we’re putting water,” Holt says while showing off some of the IC System’s features to a guest. “We’re also saving money, because we’re not throwing water away anymore. Because we have individual head control, we can really dial in where and when to put water. It’s really made a difference.”

Holt also sang the praises of the system’s diagnostics and the ease with which the Pebble Beach team can troubleshoot. “Say a gopher chews through a wire,” he says while highlighting a detailed map of the irrigation setup on the 16th hole. “With the old system, you’d lose a whole set of heads and not really know where to start looking. You might have to trace it all the way back to the box. It could have been anywhere.

“With the new system, everything in the string will work up to the point where the problem is. So you know within about a 60-foot area of where you need to look and make the repair. Tremendous savings in time and money.”

Scott Hollister is GCM’s editor-in-chief.