Returning from a very successful SALTEX show, Rupert Price, managing director of UK importer Price Turfcare, says that Ventrac has now been accepted as a relevant brand in the UK groundscare sector.
“At the end of the first day at the show, we were returning to the hotel and reflecting on the high level of business and number of visitors that we had seen. Honestly, we were sceptical about the possible visitor numbers prior to the show, but were very pleased with the footfall across the stand and the number of demonstration requests received. The discussion with the first visitor set the tone for the day with a demonstration arranged for late November.
“It occurred to us that we were being perceived in a different way than at previous events; we had become an accepted and credible brand in the sector. Instead of having to explain who we were and what the machine could do, we were talking to an audience who had seen it on social media, in the trade press and at events and now understood the benefits that it could bring to their business.
“For me, this change of perception was very pleasing and a testament to the efforts of the small team here at the company. They have worked tirelessly to promote and demonstrate the machine across the UK for the past six years. We have come from nowhere in 2017, when we launched at BTME and with the incredible support of the manufacturer, Venture Products Inc, we have gone from a presence of zero machines to over 200 today. The forward order book is healthy, we are getting regular shipments of machines and are now looking at larger premises for the new year.
“The atmosphere at SALTEX was very positive; people were really pleased to be meeting up with the industry again. It was just a good feeling to see customers, prospects and former colleagues in a positive environment. There were many discussions about supply chain issues, the inevitable price rises that we are all experiencing and the state of the sector, but all-in-all, it demonstrated the robustness of UK groundscare. For us, a great show!”
Iain Dye, the Courses Manager at The RAC in Woodcote Park, has taken delivery of a Ventrac 4500 with Contour deck and Tough Cut deck, to help maintain the two downland golf courses and surrounding estate.
Situated within the rolling Epsom Downs in Surrey, the Old Course, designed by the renowned William Herbert Fowler, was opened in 1915, while the Coronation Course was inaugurated in 1953, occupying the site of the club’s former New Course, which had been ploughed up during the Second World War.
Commenting recently Iain Dye said,
“I first saw the Ventrac during a demonstration at Tandridge Golf Club and although very impressed, we didn’t have the budget at the time to purchase it. However, the recent construction of our new reservoir prompted me to ask Rupert Price of Price Turfcare for demo here.
“It really comes into its own when mowing the steep sides of the retention walls. It would take a huge number of team hours to strim this area, so it’s saving a lot of time that can be used productively elsewhere on the courses.
“Apart from some utility vehicles we are a Toro fleet, but this Ventrac is unique and extremely versatile. We can use it for woodland management with the Tough Cut deck to get into the margins to clear brambles and brush. The health and safety aspect was an important factor in the purchase; nobody likes strimming at the best of times, but on steep slopes it’s a particularly onerous task. The Ventrac can operate on slopes of 30 degrees in complete safety; it seems to go anywhere!
“The Contour deck articulates well on uneven terrain, reducing scalping on high areas and we’ll be using it on our fairways during the winter to protect our fairway units from any worm casts. Also, it can go out in wet weather as the eight tyres produce only 6 psi, so it won’t mark the finer turf areas.
“We can now raise the presentation around the courses, maintaining steeper banks which we were unable to manage previously. These areas can be mown regularly and therefore become even more manageable over time.”
During the summer months Iain has a team of 27 including two Deputy Course Managers; Gary Stewart is responsible for the Old Course and Simon Glover for the Coronation Course. He also has two full-time mechanics and a mechanic/greenkeeper, who all ensure that the machinery works well at all times. He joined the RAC in June 2020 from Tandridge Golf Club, where he spent 14 years, initially as Deputy Course Manager before being promoted to Course Manager in 2013. After studying at Elmwood College, he joined the greenkeeping team on the Jubilee Course at St. Andrews in 1997 and worked on the Old Course from 2001, before moving from Scotland to take the job at Tandridge.
The owners of Dudsbury Golf Club, Hotel & Spa, Beate and Len Robinson, have supported long-serving head greenkeeper Warren Moss with the purchase of a Ventrac 4500 all-terrain compact tractor and Contour mowing deck to ensure the course stays in pristine condition. Replacing an old zero-turn machine and an ageing Toro Sidewinder, the new package makes sound commercial sense.
Commenting at the recent handover of the equipment Warren Moss said,
“We have an ageing fleet and we need to be smarter in how we purchase equipment in the future. The owners were very supportive when I made the business case and we are replacing two machines with one. Because of its versatility, we can add more attachments at a fraction of the cost of purchasing new dedicated equipment, so we should be able to upgrade more cost effectively, when we need to.
“I’d seen the media reports and watched some YouTube videos and even arranged a demo a couple of years ago. We had another demo recently, this time with the Contour deck and it performed extremely well. We use it on tee banks, green surrounds, bunker surrounds and can raise the height of cut to manage the semi-rough. Also, as it has a three-point linkage at the rear, we can mount our Sisis Twin Play with sorrel roller and slitter.
“My main reason for specifying this machine is its slope climbing ability. It’s extremely stable on slopes of up to 30 degrees, making it safe and manoeuvrable, especially on tees. About a third of the course is on a flood plain, so can be quite wet in winter. Because of its light footprint in its eight-wheel configuration we will be able to get out during wet spells without damaging the playing surfaces. I’m also impressed by the Aera-vator attachment, which makes aeration on banks possible, so this might possibly be our next purchase.”
Set in 160 acres of undulating Dorset countryside just outside of Bournemouth, the Donald Steel-designed 6,904-yard, par 71 championship course features nine lakes and is bordered by the river Stour. It has hosted several prestigious events including the PGA Europro Tour, which featured on Sky Sports and the BMW PGA Order of Merit Championship. Warren Moss, who heads a team of six, has been at the club for the past 12 years, the last six as Head Greenkeeper. He started his career at Yeovil Golf Club, where he attended Cannington College and enjoyed a six-month placement in Germany. He was a member of the newbuild/grow-in team at Orchardleigh near Bath in the mid-1990s, where he stayed for 15 years until joining Dudsbury.
Rupert Price and the team from Price Turfcare had a superb response to their first visit as exhibitors at The Game Fair, held at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire at the end of July. With almost 120,000 visitors across the three-day event, the exposure for the Ventrac brand was outstanding. It was the busiest ever opening day in The Game Fairs 62-year history, with a three-day total of 119,378 people enjoying the return of the festival of the Great British countryside.
Commenting a couple of days after the show, Rupert Price said,
“This was our first time as exhibitors at The Game Fair and it was an incredible experience. Visitors to this event are a prime section of the target audience for our Ventrac all-terrain compact tractor together with its range of attachments and there was huge interest. We marketed it as the Estate Manager’s Swiss Army Knife and it certainly drew a lot of attention.
“I think it helped that we had moving demonstrations on our stand, which enabled visitors to get a glimpse of what the machine can do. We had ramps at 20 and 30 degrees to demonstrate its unique climbing ability and also had a bit of fun when we balanced a football in the airflow of one of the leaf blower attachments, which tended to stop people in their tracks. This is a family-friendly event and it was great to see so many young children besotted with machinery, especially tractors. We had hundreds of photos taken with them sitting on our static display and we exhausted our supply of ‘Venny Ventrac’ colouring books midway through the second day.
“At this type of event you don’t expect to sell large price-ticket equipment such as ours, but it does provide the opportunity for exposure and to talk to prospective purchasers. I have to say that we have come away with some superb leads and it’s going to take quite some time to follow them up, but that’s a nice problem to have. We’ll definitely return next year.” The Ventrac all-terrain compactor has over 30 different attachments that can be front-mounted to provide an extremely versatile machine for a wide range of estate management applications. With a choice of eight mowing decks, it can maintain grassed areas ranging from fine turf to thick brush. Other attachments include aerators, aera-vators, brushes, blowers, overseeders, rotovators, buckets and grabs, stump grinders, trenchers and snow removal accessories. In its eight-wheel configuration it can operate on slopes of 30 degrees – the only ride-on machine in the UK certificated for such steep gradients.
JCB Golf & Country Club, the flagship sales and marketing tool of the JCB brand, situated in rolling parkland adjacent to the company’s World Headquarters in Staffordshire, has purchased a package of Ventrac equipment from local dealer, Sharrocks. Included in the package is a Ventrac 4500 all-terrain compact tractor with dual-wheels, a Tough Cut rotary deck, a Power Broom and a Stump Grinder.
The 7,400-yard course, which opened in 2018, was designed by architect Robin Hiseman of European Golf Design, and is situated in 280 acres on the estate of the former Woodseat Hall and surrounding farmland. It can be played by JCB management, staff and their guests, together with private and corporate members including dealers, suppliers and major customers. Integral to the design brief is the expectation that it will become a regular venue for a professional tour golf.
Callum Wark is the Course Manager and is responsible for a team of 31 full-time staff including three apprentices, two irrigation technicians, two mechanics and four gardeners. He’s been at the course since its inception having been employed here since the start of the course build back in 2016.
“It’s the best decision I’ve made in my career, so far,” he said. “I previously worked at Loch Lomond and it was great grounding, but when I was offered the opportunity to work on a new build, something very rare these days, especially so in the UK, I jumped at the chance. I worked as Head Greenkeeper under Euan Grant and when he left, I applied for the job of Course Manager and was successful.
“We have large estate to manage here and the CEO demands that it is of the highest quality possible. Not just the golf course, but all the areas surrounding the clubhouse, our luxury lodges and the academy. JCB is renowned across the globe and our facilities here must reflect the esteem intrinsic in the brand. That’s our goal and, in a nutshell, that’s my job.
“Therefore, we need robust and reliable equipment, to ensure that we maintain the property to these exacting standards. And, that’s why we’ve purchased the Ventrac package. This course has been designed to accommodate championship golf and has been constructed with dramatic fescue mounds and banking for spectator viewing. We needed a machine that could tackle these slopes; we tried other machines, but none came close to what the Ventrac could do. The initial demonstration was excellent and we knew very quickly that it was the machine for us.
“We have 10 km of tarmac-ed cart paths and these need to be swept clean on a regular basis. We also have extensive car-parking and other hard landscaped surfaces, so the inclusion of the Power Brush in the package was an obvious choice. We have numerous tees on each hole, but the championship tees are rarely used and this can lead to a moss issue. This can be controlled by setting the broom bristles to just touch the sward and removal is quick and simple. Being a woodland estate, the Tough Cut deck and Stump Grinder come into their own when we clear any woodland margins. “Versatility is the key word when describing the Ventrac; one power unit for many accessories. I need to make a business case for the additional purchase of the Cart Path Edger. The cart paths are all edged with kerbs and a strip of fine fescue either side. I usually send four guys out to edge those areas, whereas one guy on a Ventrac could do that in just one day.”
Tim McCutcheon is the Head Mechanic and has been described as a green-keeper with a passion for mechanics. He began his career at Lichfield Golf Club, before enrolling on the Ohio State Program, where he spent 18 months working at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, OK, recognised as one of the top 100 courses in the world and host to 15 Championships since 1945. “What can I say about this machine apart from it’s brilliant,” he said. “From a greenkeeping perspective it’s so versatile, but from a mechanic’s point of view, it’s a dream. It’s robustly built, the belts are easily accessible and simple to change, as is the access to filters and grease points. The flip-up decks make cleaning and maintenance easy and the accessory mounting system is ingenious. One thing is outstanding, especially in my role, and that’s the quality of the manuals. They are extensive and in colour, which really helps when trying to identify parts. All-in-all, a great addition to our fleet.”