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Tuesday, March 19, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Indian Canyon irrigation system first on list of improvements planned for city golf courses

UPDATED: Fri., April 27, 2018, 4:58 p.m.

Russell Grove, golf coach at North Idaho College, takes a swing from the No. 9 fairway at Indian Canyon during the 2017 Rosauers Open Invitational. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Russell Grove, golf coach at North Idaho College, takes a swing from the No. 9 fairway at Indian Canyon during the 2017 Rosauers Open Invitational. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Indian Canyon’s irrigation system won’t see its 86th birthday, and that’s reason to celebrate for fans of the venerable golf course.

The antiquated system, installed in the early 1930s, requires maintenance staff to work overnight hours to avoid interfering with golfers. When summer temperatures soar into the 90s, keeping the course watered becomes a monumental challenge.

“You can only put so many (sprinkler) heads in because of the pressure,” Indian Canyon pro Doug Phares said. “They usually work from 8 (p.m.) to 4 (a.m.).”

That will change this fall when Indian Canyon’s irrigation system is scheduled to be replaced, the first of several projects planned at four city courses, thanks to a $7.5 million loan approved last week by the Spokane City Council.

Irrigation replacements or upgrades will be staggered over the next 3-4 years at Esmeralda, Downriver and Qualchan, according to Jason Conley, executive officer of Spokane Parks and Recreation.

Conley said $2.5 million has been requested for Indian Canyon’s system, but he’s optimistic the price tag won’t reach that figure. The project probably will begin in September so it won’t infringe on most of the golf season.

Esmeralda, built in 1956, is next on the irrigation improvement list, likely followed by Downriver and Qualchan. Downriver is 102 years old, but its updated system is more than three decades old. Qualchan opened in 1992.

“We don’t want to take more than one course off line at a time so we have enough for golfers,” Conley said.

Additional projects will be addressed if funding is available.

“In our process of coming up with a strategic plan for golf, we had a consultant on board and we did a nice survey of what golfers would like to see,” Conley said. “We’ll do our best to knock off some of those.”

Green fees at city courses will probably see a $1-2 increase in the near future with the money earmarked to help repay the loan. Sponsorship opportunities also will be explored, Conley said.

Indian Canyon has seen noticeable improvement after battling maintenance issues for years. A new irrigation system should make a huge impact.

“You’re not only talking saving water, which is huge, and keeping the course in better condition, but we’ll be able to maintain the greens better,” Phares said. “We can water them selectively and the water won’t be going into the bunkers so the sand will be better. We can be really precise with how firm and fast the greens are.

“The people working at night, we can roll them into the day and get more work done.”

Phares hopes there’s enough money to tackle a few other projects at some point, including improving bunkers, tree management to expose several shaded greens to more sunlight and possibly rework a few greens to make them more player friendly.

Qualchan’s irrigation system is in good shape but could use updating, pro Mark Gardner said. “We have such big heads, it’s not real good around the greens. Almost every new course has smaller heads around the green and bigger ones to do fairways and rough.”

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