Water Saving Scheme

can cut the cost of irrigation in the Desert

John Lelean reports on developments in Dubai


Engineers have come up with a novel idea for saving water on the desert golf course destined to become one of the most spectacular in the world. While millions of gallons must be used to keep fairways and greens in prime condition, more than a third of the water will probably be recycled. And it's all thanks to an unlikely method, devised in the Middle East for keeping a private swimming pool topped up. After the water has drained through the soil into the water table below, it will be pumped back up into two man-made lakes which form the central link in the irrigation system at the Emirates Golf Club. Water is liquid gold in the United Arab Emirates. But it is there, on the outskirts of Dubai, that the first grass championship course in the region is growing out of the desert. A team of experts, led by project engineer Stephen Trutch, have overcome a series of tricky obstacles on the course, which is scheduled to open in November this year. In doing so they have come up with an effective way of reducing irrigation costs. Water pumped into the two lakes from Dubai's desalination plant is fed to the course through a network of more than 500 Toro sprinklers. It drains into the saline water table just a few feet below the ground. "It is common knowledge that fresh water sits on top of salt water", said Larry Trenary, the representative in Dubai of Karl Litten, the American who designed the course. "The irrigation we are carrying out will create a freshwater lake on top of the salt water. We will be pumping up water for testing, and we feel that in two to three years time it will be feasible to collect that water on a controlled basis, put it back in the lakes, and save as much as 25 to 40 per cent.

"We have 25 well points going down into the sub-surface and we will have to install many more, with a large suction pump, to get the water out", added Trenary. "But we know it can be done successfully because we have already carried out a similar operation in an area nearby where there is a lens of fresh­ water on top of the water table". The water saving scheme was pioneered by Eric Tulloch, Chief Engineer at Dubai Water Department for the past 25 years. He came up with the idea of filling his private pool by pumping water out of the ground in his garden. The Emirates Golf Club has been hailed locally as "Moham­med's magnificent gift to Dubai" a reference to H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE's Minister of Defence who has inspired the project. The course has also been attracting international attention, and former British Ryder Cup star Tommy Horton is one man who believes it has all the makings of a professional tournament venue. Horton, Chairman of the Euro­pean Tour Committee, said after a visit to Dubai that the course could easily find a place on the European circuit. Kerry Son, from Florida appointed as Course Superin­tendent flew into Dubai from Florida, inspected the course within hours, and came up with a glowing verdict. "It's magnificent, both in terms of the design and character", he said. "It is going to be a very challenging course for any golfer. It may take a whole year to get it into optimum condition, but it will be a very popular course through­ out the world when it is finished. It is going to be spectacular ". Designer Litten, involved in more than 100 golf course projects around the world over the past 20 years, believes his offering to Dubai could turn out to be the masterpiece of his career. "I'm thinking that more and more every time I see it", he said, after jetting to the UAE to carry out a progress check, and go over the details with course engineer Stephen Trutch, who has been deeply involved in the project since it was first launched just 12 months ago.

Green Green Grass of Dubai

On the outskirts of Dubai where camels roam the desert plains, the grass is now visible from the main highway, and motorists slow down to check out the growing splash of green. The Emirates Golf Club is not easy to miss. When it opens in November it will become the first championship course in the Gulf, the latest in a growing line of sporting assets for the go-ahead city in the United Arab Emirates. One man who played his part in the projects is a welder from Oklahoma. His hydraulic invention, a machine that can plant a fairway in a couple of hours, has been one of the most important pieces of equipment used in the con­struction of the course. The machine, which cost $20,000, was built to specifi­cations laid down in Dubai, and has not been sold commercially. It is towed behind a tractor, and drops grass sprigs in any frequency you want to broadcast the grass. Behind is a large roller with knives which dig into the ground down to about six to eight inches. Then there is a large roller which closes it all up and tucks it in., It can take four or five days to plant an average size fairway by hand. This machine can do the same work in a couple of hours, covering an area of about three acres.

A New Shape in the Desert

In recent weeks a new shape has begun to emerge from the sandhills - the beginnings of a structure that looks like a space­ age version of a Bedouin tent. This is the multi-million dollar Club House where Members will dine in a five-star restaurant and relax in saunas, and jacuzzis. Close at hand will be squash and tennis courts, along with a floodlit crown green bowling arena and practice range. The 6,618 yard par 72 course itself displays a classic links style within a few dog-legs of the sea, its fairways sunk beneath smooth banks and flowing around four man-made lakes. All the attention to detail in early days, before giant earth­ movers began shitting millions of tons of sand last July, is now paying dividends. The two types of chosen hybrid Bermuda grass, are now growing towards maturity on fairways and greens. On arrival in the UAE, the grass sealed in packets to prevent contamination, was immediately planted at nurseries near the course. "After we established a goody heavy turf we then used a machine (a Ryan verticut turf mower) that pulls pieces of root and stem out of the ground", said Larry Trenary. "This machine has hundreds of little blades that are curled at the end and spin very quickly, go about half an inch into the ground, and pull up the grass. "We broadcast the grass over the greens by hand and kept it wet for 10 to 12 days. You lose about 50 per cent on the greens, but they are completely covered in about five to six weeks".

Golf or Fishing or Both?

Tift 419 Hybrid B, developed in Tifton, Georgia, one of the foremost grass-growing regions of the USA, was chosen for the fairways because it is salt tolerant, and replaces itself quickly. For the greens the Emirates Golf Club picked Tift 328, a thinner-leafed type of Bermuda grass which allows a better run of the ball. "You can cut it to three sixteenths of an inch, and by cross-cutting you can develop a speed of nine to nine-and-a-half on the Stimpmeter ",said Trenary. Fast and true putting surfaces are just part of the general attraction of the course that has already impressed a number of top golfers who recognise the potential in Dubai. Long drivers like Sevvy Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Sandy Lyle would appreciate the sting in the tail of the Emirates Golf Club - a 550 yard par five 18th hole. It requires a finishing shot across one of the lakes to a giant double green shared by the ninth. Any player forced to go paddling after selecting the wrong club might have more success with a fishing rod. The lake is stocked with several thousand Japanese Koi carp, all part of the beautification work which has seen thousands of trees and plants springing up out of the desert making the 700,000 square metre site as verdant as any natural oasis.


Extracted from Golf Greenkeeping Magazine July/August 1987 Edition