Tree Irrigation, Annenberg Retreat

Rancho Mirage, CA—Merit Award, Golf Course


Jason Smith
Water Concern, LTD.
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA



The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California is also referred to as the Western White House or Camp David of the West.  Sunnylands convenes global leaders for retreats and meetings. The 200 acre estate features a 9 hole golf course.  Summer temperatures are frequently over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and as high as 120 degrees on occasion.  High temperatures limit outdoor activities, including golf.

In the summer months, the turf on the golf course can go dormant, eliminating the need for irrigation.  However, the trees on the course suffer without adequate irrigation.



The previous irrigation system required that the entire golf course be irrigated to keep the trees alive and healthy.  When plans were made to replace the existing irrigation, it was a priority to be able to irrigate the trees on the course separately from the turf irrigation system.  In a further effort to conserve water, turf use was reduced in some areas.  The philosophy at Sunnylands has always been “a strong commitment to the environment by using the estate as a living laboratory to test and develop sustainable environmental practices”.

Working in collaboration with the golf course irrigation consultant, the consultant was hired to design a dedicated system to irrigate the trees.  Objectives included having a system separate from the turf irrigation system; incur minimal disruption to the tree roots from construction; and provide a system that could be operated to provide deep watering to the tree roots.

A zone of sprinklers was placed outside the dripline of each tree.  Water source was from the golf course irrigation system which operated at a much higher pressure than needed for the tree watering system.  A pressure reducing valve was installed at each connection to assure optimum system operating pressure.  System piping was high density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe, installed by vibratory plow to minimize disturbance to the turf and tree roots.



  • Provided a solution for irrigating the trees on the estate
  • Evaluated the existing site and new golf course irrigation plans to find materials and products that will integrate well with new and existing facilities
  • Collaborated with the golf course irrigation designer for point of connection locations, pressure information and the equipment selection
  • Met with the installing contractor and discussed material and equipment specification to streamline the installation
  • Field staked head and valve locations
  • Met with Sunnylands caretakers to learn how they generally operate and looked-for ways to simplify their work and procedures



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