100 Years of Innovation in Golf — Part 5: Irrigation

This series of articles will attempt to capture just a few innovations, old and new, that Toro has developed over the past 100 years to help our customers meet the ongoing challenges of maintaining their golf courses. In each article, our intent is to quietly honor the customers, channel partners and Toro employees that have all contributed to our longevity and success.

Today, Toro offers some of the most advanced and precise irrigation technology in the golf industry. It’s a far cry from the early days of golf course irrigation nearly a century ago when sprinklers had to be moved around the course manually — and visual inspection was the only tool to tell if an area was getting too much or too little water. Read on for a brief look at how Toro irrigation systems have evolved over the years, and how we’re still innovating to make irrigation more efficient than ever.

1923: Introducing The Sea Serpent
When production of the Sea Serpent fairway sprinkler system began in 1923, Toro became the only company to offer a full line of both turf maintenance and irrigation equipment. The above-ground system was a wheeled assembly of pipes, spray heads and truss rods invented and patented by company president J.S. Clapper. According to an early advertisement for the system, the Sea Serpent was “a very effective device for watering fairways.” The ad also noted that “on ordinary fairways one man can move it from place to place.”

The Sea Serpent was a huge success and one of the reasons that Toro was the world’s number one manufacturer of golf course maintenance products by 1925.

1930s: Gallons Of Success
Golf’s popularity grew at the beginning of the 1930s. Supplying water throughout the course was more important to superintendents than water efficiency, and Toro delivered with the Jupiter system. It was a hit for one key reason: it spewed water, more than 35 gallons per minute. But as the Great Depression deepened throughout the decade, watering golf courses — indeed, even the existence of golf courses — was deemed a luxury and the product had to be discontinued.

1962: Plastics
A major part of Toro’s success has been the ability to look ahead. For decades, course irrigation was associated with cast iron and brass products, but Toro saw a future in the plastic irrigation products developed by Riverside, California-based Moist-O-Matic and purchased the company in 1962.

An underground irrigation system made of plastic was laughed at by many course superintendents, but a few visionaries saw the benefits. When renowned courses switched to Toro’s plastic underground solution, the industry took note. By 1972, Toro president David Lilly was able to write in the annual report that Toro’s solution was “the most widely used automatic equipment in golf course irrigation.”

Today: Precise Water Delivery
Golf course irrigation has come a long way since the Sea Serpent. Today’s solutions from Toro utilize innovative sensors and nozzle technology that keep turf healthy and vibrant using as little water as possible. At the heart of it is Lynx® Central Control, which creates an interactive digital map of the course that centralizes all essential irrigation data and course conditions. It can be used to schedule and control all irrigation activities, and it also provides real-time reports so any irrigation concerns can be addressed immediately before any course damage is done.

Sprinkler technology is more advanced than ever as well. Lynx® Smart Module builds on Toro’s century of engineering expertise to deliver precision control, high-speed diagnostics and robust lightning protection. Sprinkler run times can be controlled to within one second to prevent overwatering and save money. As an example, if a golf course with 1,000 sprinklers at 20 gpm ran each sprinkler just 30 seconds less, the course would save about 10,000 gallons every day.

Looking Ahead
As outdated as they are now, the Sea Serpent, Jupiter and Moist-O-Matic represented major leaps forward in irrigation technology. Today’s Lynx products are the most advanced solutions available, and you can count on Toro to continue to lead the way.

Watch for the December issue of Toro Advantage for another look back at 100 years of innovation in golf — or check out the other articles in this series featuring historic product developments for Fairways, Greens, Roughs and Vehicles.