Water management at Paradise Valley (Ariz.) CC (shown here) is the first order of business for Superintendent Rob Collins and his team, much like most desert southwest golf facilities. Collins’ work will be on display during an interactive tour of the facility at Paradise Valley during the 2024 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show. Photos courtesy of Rob Collins
It’s more by chance than design that water has taken center stage in Rob Collins’ professional life since he began earning a full-time salary, albeit in two very different contexts.
A native of north-central Ohio, Collins joined the U.S. Navy right out of high school. After completing basic training, he was sent to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, where he would spend the remainder of his enlistment as an “airbrush seaman second class” – essentially, a weather observer.
Everyday views of nothing but the vastness of open seas can create a certain perspective on the water, and this was certainly the case in Collins’ case.
Fast forward several years – after his discharge from the Navy, his work on a golf course in his hometown of Ashland, Ohio, and the agronomy degree he earned at Ohio State University – until 1995, when Collins took a job supervising maintenance at Paradise. Valley (Ariz.) Country Club. From day one, water and its role in maintaining the Valley of the Sun’s golf courses became a very different part of Collins’ career than his time on the deck of an aircraft carrier.
“I hadn’t really thought about that contrast before,” says Collins, a 33-year GCSAA member. “In my role here, however, water and water conservation have been major elements of our entire history, and that is no different for any golf course in this part of the world. It’s an ongoing problem that we think about every day.
Even so, few have probably given as much or as careful thought to water courses and golf courses as Collins, both in his role as GCSAA’s Class A superintendent at Paradise Valley and as one of leading advocates for gaming in the state as a reasonable and conscientious user of the resource. This work ranges from renovations at Paradise Valley, focused on improving irrigation and reducing turf, to participating on the front lines of water-related discussions between the Arizona Alliance for Golf and the Department of Agriculture. Arizona’s water resources as they seek common-sense regulations. for commercial users of the state’s water.
It’s this work and more that makes Paradise Valley an ideal choice for Water Management Solutions, one of seven interactive facility tours that will be among the educational offerings at the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show 2024 in Phoenix, from January 29 to February. 1.
“We’ve always seen ourselves as part of a larger community, and I hope people who come to these sessions leave with a sense of that and the role we’re trying to play in improving our community,” said Collins. “(Superintendents) have a very specific set of skills and knowledge when it comes to water use. I hope this tour will open people’s eyes to new opportunities and ways we can use all of this to help not only our golf courses, but also the communities around them.
Rob Collins has overseen maintenance of Paradise Valley CC since 1995. Water conservation efforts have ranged from tree and turf removal to a recent project with the USGA on subsurface drip irrigation. drop.
Collins has seen much more than the desert during his turf career. After graduating from Ohio State, he took lessons in his home state – including a stint at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin – and spent a little over a year in the Saint -Louis at Forest Hills Country Club. But for 28 years, Arizona has been his home, and he has seen all the good and bad of running a golf course in this unique environment.
“The biggest obstacle for me – and it still challenges me today – was realizing that we are essentially growing two cultures here. We’re in an overseeded environment, a cool-season turf environment from about November to May, and then we’re in a warm-season environment the rest of the year,” Collins says. “The concept of transitioning between the two was new to me and, honestly, it took my entire career to become familiar with that and the fact that it’s not a pretty thing.”
Collins admits to adapting much more quickly to water management on a desert golf course, which requires a different type of diligence than most other parts of the country. The amount of water available to golf courses in and around Phoenix is subject to countless conditions and restrictions, from maximum annual water allocations based on the size and age of a facility to limits based on the total irrigated area of the property.
Paradise Valley has been proactive in responding to these kinds of challenges, not only to ensure it has access to the water needed to maintain healthy, playable conditions, but also to ensure it is a good neighbor. Collins has overseen several tree felling and turf reduction projects – including a renovation led by Coore and Crenshaw in 2013 and 2014 – in an effort to maintain the irrigated turf area of the course below of a threshold that triggers a series of restrictions.
He also looked to technology as a gateway to more efficient water use. When the club last updated its irrigation system in 2008, it required manufacturers to guarantee that the system they got would meet a minimum distribution uniformity of at least 80 percent. Soil moisture readings are taken daily at Paradise Valley to minimize over and under watering. And Collins is working with the USGA on an underground drip irrigation project on multiple tees, which will be showcased during the Water Management Solutions facility tour.
“We have plans in the works regarding all of that,” Collins says, “because it’s one of those things where we probably won’t see an increase in the amount of water available to golf courses.” And with the challenges we’ve seen in the Colorado River Basin making headlines, it’s almost certain that this situation will continue to decline. We must be ready.
An aerial view of the Paradise Valley CC underground drip irrigation system installation.
Shine in the spotlight
Collins’ success in making Paradise Valley a shining example of how golf can be part of the solution when it comes to water use and management has opened doors for him to take on a leadership role on a larger scale. An active member of the Arizona Alliance for Golf’s water committee, he has become something of a public face when it comes to communicating about golf and water with government officials, the general public and media.
It’s not a role he campaigned for – “I’m happy to serve, but it’s not something I’ve ever sought out,” he says – but Collins says the expertise he and other superintendents can contribute when discussing these topics. are keys to showcasing the game’s leadership and successes in water matters.
“We live in a fishbowl here; Golf is literally on the doorstep of a lot of people, most of whom probably don’t play golf,” Collins says. “What I recognized is that because we are so visible and our water use is so visible, it can benefit us to have a voice and explain what is happening and what we do. Superintendents are in a great position to share their knowledge and experiences, and this only helps our cause.
In addition to his on-course efforts at Paradise Valley CC, Collins has also been a strong advocate for the golf industry when it comes to water use. A member of the Arizona Alliance for Golf’s Water Committee, Collins has worked tirelessly to communicate golf and water to government officials, the general public and the media.
Up close and personal
Interactive tours of the CTS 2024 facilities will take place on Monday and Tuesday, January 29 and 30. Attendees will have two opportunities to participate in sessions on water management solutions, presented by The Toro Co., with slots available both Monday morning and afternoon.
The session will include several stops around Paradise Valley that will feature ongoing turfgrass trials examining the use of TifEagle zoysiagrass and bermudagrass in desert regions, the use of subsurface drip irrigation as a way to save money on both water and money, management of the irrigation system and land use. moisture meters and an overview of the club’s community relations efforts.
Other facility tours in Phoenix include:
- Cottonwood Country Club in Sun Lakes to Host Launch of First Trip to the Green Course Is Easier Than You Think Monday Morning
- Innovation in Equipment Management, presented by Foley Co., will take place at Phoenix Country Club Monday morning and afternoon.
- Desert Highlands Golf Club will be the site of The Latest in Golf Turf Management, with Frank Rossi, Ph.D., Monday afternoon.
- The course renovations, presented by Capillary Bunkers, will be showcased Tuesday morning and afternoon at the Arizona Biltmore Golf Course.
- TPC Scottsdale, host of the annual Waste Management Open on the PGA Tour, will host tournament prep, presented by John Deere, Tuesday morning and afternoon.
- BMP Implementation Technology, presented by Helena, will take place at Camelback Golf Club on Tuesday morning and afternoon.
For more information about interactive tours of the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show facilities in Phoenix, visit https://bit.ly/3tpIc8T.
Scott Hollister (email@example.com) is the editor-in-chief of GCM.