Work underway on state-of-the-art project at Bexhill club

A member of Lakes & Greens staff does some work between the sixth and 13th holes at Highwoods Golf Club. Pictures by Simon Newstead
A member of Lakes & Greens staff does some work between the sixth and 13th holes at Highwoods Golf Club. Pictures by Simon Newstead

Work is well underway on a state-of-the-art contemporary irrigation system at Highwoods Golf Club.

We are now six weeks into a five-month programme to install the system for all 18 greens, tees and green approaches at the Ellerslie Lane club.

Highwoods Golf Club deputy head greenkeeper Jamie Melham in the Kubota near the sixth green and seventh tee

Highwoods Golf Club deputy head greenkeeper Jamie Melham in the Kubota near the sixth green and seventh tee

Costing a significant six-figure sum, the system is Highwoods’ largest ever financial investment and it will take the condition of the course to the next level.

The system is produced by German manufacturer Perrot - a European market leader in irrigation which has agreed to install an irrigation product at Chelsea Football Club - and is being installed by Uckfield-based irrigation and drainage contractors Lakes & Greens.

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Highwoods is only the third golf club in the UK to use this design and the club is working with Stella Rickson, an agronomist with STRI - the largest agronomy consultancy in the world.

Highwoods general manager Austen Moran said: “The work is progressing extremely well. Lakes & Greens have been unbelievably professional and neat and tidy in relation to the way they’ve carried out the work.

Some of the piping for the new irrigation system at Highwoods Golf Club in place near the sixth green and seventh tee

Some of the piping for the new irrigation system at Highwoods Golf Club in place near the sixth green and seventh tee

“Minimal disruption to the players and surfaces has been our aim, and we’ve achieved that and more.”

Once the installation process is complete, 9,000m of piping will have been installed below ground as part of a system which will see green approach watering at Highwoods for the first time.

Aided by the favourable weather, eight greens and green approaches, and six tees, were done during the first five weeks of the work.

An immense amount of thought and planning has gone in to the project through the management team, led by Moran and Jamie Melham, and the work has started in the wetter parts of the course.

Some of the work for the new irrigation system at Highwoods Golf Club alongside the seventh hole

Some of the work for the new irrigation system at Highwoods Golf Club alongside the seventh hole

Golfers have been playing as normal while the work has been going on and Moran received fantastic feedback on the condition of the course, plus the welcome received, following the annual Sussex past captains versus Sussex managers/secretaries match (which the secretaries won 7-3) at Highwoods last Thursday.

The new system will be far more intelligent and sophisticated, not to mention environmentally friendly, than the club’s existing irrigation system which, after years of repairs, has lasted more than double its anticipated lifespan at the time of its installation 40 years ago.

Boasting a built-in rain sensor which knows how much rain has fallen, the new system will provide a much more efficient delivery and even distribution of irrigation to all the areas that need it, helping the management of the tees, greens and approaches.

The system is computer controlled (and can also be operated via a mobile app), enabling the operator to go through each sprinkler and tell it how much water to deliver. The quantities can be changed on a rolling basis and there are 150 different delivery options available.

Some of the piping being used for the new irrigation system at Highwoods Golf Club

Some of the piping being used for the new irrigation system at Highwoods Golf Club

As well as improving the condition of the course, the new system will be far better from an ecological standpoint.

The club will be putting in 150% more sprinklers, but may even use less water than it currently does because it will irrigate in a more efficient and intelligent way. It will allow less chemicals and fertilisers to be used too.

On top of that, bird boxes are already in place, a wild flower planting scheme has been introduced and two ‘bug hotels’ - neatly-constructed creations made up of waste materials which will allow bugs to thrive - will be created.

“We’re trying to be as environmentally conscious as we can be while looking after 120 acres of the local area,” said Moran, who added that the club is still receiving membership applications even at times of the year when you wouldn’t generally expect to.

“Across the board the whole club is in a good position. We continue to improve and invest; we’re standing still and becoming complacent. We want to make sure we keep improving the facilities.

“The last few years we’ve done underground drainage to help with the wetter areas of the course and this is the next phase of the board’s vision to try and achieve the best they can for the golf club and get all-year-round golf.”

Work on the new irrigation system is expected to be completed by the end of February.