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Woburn Golf Club Deploys SMS-Enabled Irrigation System

PKM Solutions Designs and Installs Cost-Effective Water Management Solution That Sees Allen-Bradley Micro830 PLCS Texting Each Other For Instructions

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  • Woburn Golf Course needed a robust automated solution for its irrigation infrastructure, one that three geographically dispersed nodes speak to each other in any condition


  • Three Allen-Bradley Micro830 PLCs
  • Three ProSoft Technology ILX800- SMSG, Micro800 SMS Plug-in Modules
  • Three ProSoft Technology A081904 Magnetic Mount Dual Band Antennas


  • Lower cost than Ethernet-based solution
  • Expandable and flexible
  • Incredibly simple, but does exactly what is required


Woburn Golf Club is one of the most famous golf centres in the UK – if not the world. Officially opened in 1976, the Duke’s Course, which hosted the 1979 British Masters, was eventually joined by the Duchess’ Course in 1978 and, in 2000, by the Marquess’ Course. Each course has its own personality and foibles and all three are well respected by the local and international golfing community

Located at Little Brickhill, near Milton Keynes in England, the three courses are nestled amid mature woodland on the Duke of Bedford’s Woburn Abbey estate. The woodland setting gives the courses much of their appeal; but the stunning fairways and greens also add to the overall picture.

Like all golf courses, the work behind the scenes to keep the courses looking this good is staggering, with a full army of grounds-keeping staff working around the clock to maintain the courses’ immaculate appearance. As well as traditional mowers and hand tools, the ground staff also rely on technology to help them in their day-to-day jobs. One particular new installation saw PKM Solutions and Routeco work together to deploy technology from Rockwell Automation and one of its Encompass Product Partners, ProSoft Technology, in a very interesting and novel configuration.


One of the biggest challenges faced by the grounds staff at Woburn Golf and Country Club is irrigation and water supply to water features. With acres of rough, fairway and greens to manage, the three courses all require significant quantities of water and this has to be managed very carefully to ensure the right amount of water is in the right place at the right time.

The primary irrigation infrastructure comprises a reservoir, which feeds two remotely located tanks – some two miles away – using pump stations. These tanks need to be closely monitored to ensure that water level do not drop too far. An automated system is certainly the obvious solution, but with the distances involved, communication can become an issue.


Paul Mold at PKM Solutions, a system integrator, explains: “The first option considered, due to the customer already having a grip on the technology, was a Smart Relay based solution, which would utilise standard wireless Ethernet as a communication bridge, but due to temperature sensitivity, the Ethernet equipment would have to be placed in heated cabinets to avoid freezing during the winter months. When this option was costed it was deemed to be overly expensive and an alternative was sought.”

The solution that Paul eventually devised, sounds simple, but Rockwell Automation believed it had never been attempted before. It comprised three Allen-Bradley® Micro830® PLCs, one at the reservoir and one on each tank, with each PLC working side by side with a ProSoft Technology ILX800-SMSG Micro800 SMS Plug-in Module and a magnetic mount antenna.

The PLC and SMS module working in tandem was not a new idea; but the way that PKM Solutions and Routeco configured them potentially was. In all the instances both companies could find, the SMS modules had only ever been used to communicate from a PLC to a cellular phone and back again. In this installation they were going to get the PLCs speaking to each other using SMS messages. “We think that this PLC-to-PLC communication via text messaging is a new thing,” Paul explains.

In operation, it is remarkably simple. When a water tank issues a low level warning, its PLC sends an SMS to the central reservoir PLC, which initiates the pumps. When the level is correct, a second SMS is sent to cease pumping. It really is no more complicated than that.


As well as being an extremely elegant solution, this Micro830-based solution offered a significantly lower capital outlay.

Paul concludes: “The customer now has a much more flexible and expandable system than they could have ever imagined. We have seen first-hand the simplicity and power of the Micro800 range and the end customer is already thinking of other potential ideas for using this combination of technologies moving forwards.”


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