Rolling Hills Golf Course

Tempe, AZ—Honor Award, Golf Course


Douglas Macdonald
Aqua Engineering, Inc.
Fort Collins, CO



Rolling Hills is a city owned golf course in Tempe, Arizona.  The original nine holes were built in 1960, and the second nine holes were added in 1987.  The course occupies approximately 65 acres of the 1200-acre Papago Park Recreation Area.  Papago Park is also home to the Phoenix Zoo, Desert Botanical Garden, athletic complexes, biking/hiking trails and other recreational amenities.

In 2014, city representatives approved an irrigation system renovation project.  The existing irrigation system was unreliable, in various stages of failure and required constant repairs. System failures resulted in turf damage, undesirable playing conditions and extreme water waste.  The existing system used potable water as its source putting a high demand burden on the City’s water distribution system.



The Consultant initially performed a feasibility study for replacing potable water as the irrigation source and renovating the golf course irrigation system.  It was determined that system technology and efficiency enhancements combined with water source conversion will save the City water, energy and other tangible resource costs for decades.

A new 1.2-acre raw water storage lake amenity was built to store four days volume of peak season daily water demand.  Lake construction included a synthetic lining system to eliminate water lost to seepage and an aeration system to help mitigate potential water quality issues associated with using raw water.  The water storage lake improved the system management capability as well as the overall golf course aesthetic and challenge of play.

The replacement system uses high efficiency hybrid rotary sprinkler system with block system strategy for tees and valve-in-head sprinklers for greens, fairways and roughs, and point-source drip irrigation for native plantings. System control is a two-wire system with on-site weather station interface.  The two existing pump stations were replaced with a single VFD station using the newly constructed lake as the water source.



  • Consulted with golf course maintenance personnel who replaced turf areas with native plantings to reduce total irrigated turf requirements from 65 acres to 45 acres
  • Acted as prime consultant, developing a team of architects, landscape architects, surveyors, geotechnical engineers, & electrical engineers
  • Transferred the irrigation water source from potable to raw water
  • Prepared plans, specifications, and details for an efficient, effective, and reliable irrigation system for the golf course
  • Prepared plans, specifications, and details for a highly efficient VFD pumping station, including new wet well and pump station structure



Coordinated with Salt River Project (SRP) representatives, the raw water purveyor, to install a new canal diversion for the golf course and route raw water to the new storage lake.  Agreements were coordinated to supply raw water to the diversion on an “on call” basis from golf course superintendent.  A back up potable water source was designed to enable a supplementary water source during the SRP “dry up” period for maintenance.

Potential raw water quality issues, including known potential algae blooms at the canal diversion site, were addressed using lake aeration and filtration technologies at the pump station.



To view project images, click HERE