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It Started With An Idea

What began as a project to keep their five kids entertained became a unique way for Idaho growers Bart and Cherie Christensen to diversify their fourth generation farming operation.

“My parents had the idea to build a few golf holes on a small parcel of land that was too hilly and rocky to farm,” said youngest child Ryan Christensen. “The plan was to keep the holes for family and close friends, but after going over the land, my dad determined that there was enough room to build a full nine holes.”

With the help of their children and a couple of farm employees, the Christensens carved out the course between the farm fields that make up their 3,500 acre operation. The course, now known as Caribou Highlands Golf and RV, opened to the public in 1995.

“The course covers 56 acres of ground and is still watered by the original Zimmatic pivot that has been in place since 1987,” Christensen said. “The course is sandwiched between farmland – 55 acres to the north that’s farmed for potatoes and wheat, and to the south, 13 acres farmed for wheat and alfalfa. Once the course was built, the pivot remained the primary water source, because it continues to water the farmland.”

Because the pivot waters both farmland and a golf course, applying the correct amount of water at the right time was initially a challenge. To solve that problem, Christensen added Growsmart® Precision VRI to his pivot irrigation system.

“With this system, there’s an individual valve on every single sprinkler the entire length of the pivot, which is a quarter mile long,” Christensen said. “Every four valves are connected to a node that communicates wirelessly with a GPS controller at the center of the pivot. Based on my programming, as the pivot moves across the golf course and adjacent farm ground, the valves open, close or pulsate to deliver however much water I deem necessary for every single spot on or off the course.”

Christensen, who became superintendent of the golf course after his father retired in 2012, said that VRI gives him the ability to program the irrigation system so that it meets the operation’s differing needs.

“Since the course was built on wasteland to begin with, there are still a lot of rock piles that don’t need water. I am able to turn off the irrigation on these areas, eliminating the watering of 15 acres,” he said. “I’m also able to control the watering needs of the different areas of the golf course. For example, my rough gets less water than my fairways.”

Adding VRI to his irrigation system also helped Christensen improve the yield from his farmable acres. 

“We have always planted a grain crop on the 13 acres south of the course, but the grain was always of very low quality and yields due to severe over-watering or under-watering,” he said. “Now with VRI, we have been able to plant alfalfa on this ground. I can water it heavy with the golf course, but when it comes time, to cut, rake and bale the alfalfa, I am able to turn off the last towers while it’s harvested. My golf course does not suffer from lack of water during harvesting, and the alfalfa thrives on the heavy watering of the golf course.”

With VRI, Christensen said he also saves resources. Because he’s no longer watering rocky areas or native grass, he’s seen a 42 percent reduction in water use – which also results in pump savings.