Staying Levelheaded, USGA Northeast Region Update

Posted on November 29th, 2021
By: John Daniels, agronomist, Northeast Region

Raising sunken sprinkler heads is a great late-season task to improve the accuracy and precision of your irrigation system.

Golf courses throughout the Northeast have begun the annual process of winterizing their irrigation systems. Draining the lines to prevent freeze damage is a welcome sight as it signals the end of the golfing season for many. However, just because the irrigation pumps are powered down and the sprinkler heads are blown out doesn’t mean that your work is completely done.

The next few weeks are an opportune time to correct sunken or uneven sprinkler heads that are limiting your irrigation uniformity. Completing this task when there is no need to irrigate, and the ground has yet to freeze makes for a simpler process. As you look to improve your irrigation uniformity, have staff members use a small bubble-level to ensure that individual heads are not only raised to grade but are truly level as this can improve the accuracy and precision of the spray pattern. Heads that are located on steeper slopes may not operate properly or they could be damaged by mowing equipment if you try to make them truly level, so in those cases it is best to align the heads with the surrounding ground.

With a typical 18-hole golf course having over 1,000 sprinkler heads, digging up and leveling each one might seem like an insurmountable task, particularly when trying to complete the work prior to the first snow. The good news is that most heads will probably not require significant adjustments. Oftentimes, you will only need to raise the sprinkler heads that are near the putting greens. The frequent accumulation of sand topdressing and bunker sand splash causes these heads to become recessed quicker than most other areas of the golf course. That being said, if you have been on a fairway topdressing program it will only be a matter of time before you need to adjust those heads as well. If it were me, I would focus on the greens first and then work my way out from there. Whatever you aren’t able to finish this year can be completed early next spring. Another option is to work with an outside irrigation contractor to help expedite the process.

Northeast Region Agronomists:

Adam Moeller, director, Green Section Education –

Darin Bevard, director, Championship Agronomy –

Elliott Dowling, agronomist –

John Daniels, agronomist –

Information on the USGA’s Course Consulting Service

Contact the Green Section Staff

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