Following Royal Ashdown Forest Golf Club’s purchase of Ventrac 4500, Course Manager Dominic Lewis is saving hundreds of greenkeeping hours at the 132-year old club.
Situated within Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, the club has two 18-hole courses, both over 100 years old and they are proud that no earth was moved, no ponds dug or streams diverted during their construction. They are entirely natural and rely on the uncontrived hazards of heather, narrow fairways, hollows and water to test the skill of the golfer.
Dominic Lewis has been in post for just over a year, having held similar positions at Hadley Wood, Harewood Downs, Oakland Park and Datchet golf clubs. Commenting on the Ventrac he said,
“I’ve been in my position since May last year and quickly discovered the huge amount of time the team were spending on strimming work, on the banks and in the ditches. It was amazing the amount of time it took; it was a nightmare and, of course, it’s physical and extremely uncomfortable in hot weather. We looked for a solution and discovered the Ventrac. Our local dealer, Ernest Doe, sourced a machine, we had a demonstration and it was obvious it was what we needed. We chose four attachments; the Contour deck, Tough Cut deck, Trencher and Power Rake, so we have virtually four dedicated machines in one. At around £55K for the package, I would say it’s certainly value for money.”
Dave Wakeley, Deputy Course Manager, is the principal operator of the machine and is more impressed with it every time he takes it out.
“It’s a gamechanger for us and is saving us hours on some of the really time-intensive jobs around the courses. For instance, we have to strim the banks and ditches every three weeks and it used to take five of us up to three days to complete. With the Ventrac we have reduced strimming hours by at least 75%, maybe more.
“Following the very wet winter we took the opportunity to add some drainage bands to some particularly difficult areas on site. The Trencher attachment was great for this, very quick and it left a tidy finish, once we’d laid the pipes and inserted the gravel.
“It’s superb on banks and goes where no other machine can go. It takes a little time to get used to, to gain the confidence to go into steep areas, but you soon get to know where it can go. We have used all four attachments; the Power Rake has proved very useful in reinstating the cart paths and machinery tracks, agitating the compacted material, removing ruts and smoothing out the surface. I used it in both wet and dry conditions and would recommend doing this job when it’s wet!”
Dave Mitchell is the club’s long-serving mechanic, having been in the industry for over 45 years, and for the last 30 at Ashdown Forest. He knows a good machine when he sees one.
“This is a very good and well-built machine,” he said. “It’s made from heavy duty steel; the welding is good and it’s robust. The attachments are belt-driven and easy to maintain, there are a couple of grease nipples that are difficult to access, but that’s being very picky! The lift-up decks are a great feature, so there’s no excuse for not cleaning the machine after use. All-in-all, a good addition to our fleet.”
Maintaining ditches now only requires the bottom area to be strimmed.
Deputy Course Manager Dave Wakeley says, the Ventrac goes where no others can!
The Wildernesse Golf Club has purchased a Ventrac 4500 compact tractor and selection of attachments to assist in the maintenance of the magnificent wooded 18-hole course, located in the village of Seal near Sevenoaks in Kent.
Mark Todd is the Course Managerand heads a team of eight including a full-time mechanic. He began his career in 1988 at nearby Lingfield Park Golf Club, where he spent 10 years learning his trade before joining The Club Company at Nizels Golf and Country Club as Deputy Course Manager. Within six months he was promoted to Course Manager and in 2007 took up his current position at The Wildernesse.
“It might be a cliché, but this incongruous looking machine is a gamechanger,” he said. “We purchased the tractor unit and three attachments; the Contour deck, Tough Cut deck and Turbine Blower. We are a heavily wooded course and we spend too many hours using backpack blowers removing leaves and other debris, not just in the autumn, but all year round. We hand cut all our greens and the team take a backpack blower with them every time, to clear the surface before mowing. This is so time-intensive, but the Turbine blower is brilliant; we also use it to remove the debris after scarifying tees and even blow cores from the greens after aeration.
“The Tough Cut deck is great for maintaining the woodland margins. We used to use a compact tractor and flail to mow these areas, but it was a heavy and cumbersome combination. The out-front position of the Tough Cut deck combined with the low profile and agility of the tractor unit, means we can get in and under the trees. Without doubt, it has lifted the presentation of the course.
“Changing between the different attachments is quick and easy. There’s no three-point linkage to worry about or adjustments to make, you simply drive out of the current implement and drive into the next one. The mounting system is ingenious; it’s so quick that it encourages you to use it to its full potential.We recently loaned the stump grinder attachment and I was extremely sceptical that a belt-driven implement on a sub-25 hp tractor would be robust enough to do the job. However, it was outstanding and seemed defy the laws of mechanics; it will certainly be our next purchase.
“Initially I thought buying the Ventrac would be just about maintaining the banks and removing leaves, but we’re finding more and more uses for it. When we were looking to purchase the equipment, I had great support from the club. I made what I hoped was a sound business case and also invited the Greens Chairman to the demonstration. Everyone was impressed with its slope climbing ability and its potential labour-saving attributes, which have since become a reality. You know you’re on a winner, when there’s a lot of interest and positive comments from the members! “I’ve been very fortunate during my time here as the club has been very supportive. They have invested in a new irrigation system, new machinery and throughout the Covid-19 pandemic have been superb. We had numerous meetings and discussions on how we would approach and handle the situation and I must say, that my greenkeeping team have gone above and beyond expectations.
“We split into two teams; one headed by Lee Austin, my deputy, and the other by myself. We worked 10-hour days, one on, one off and it worked very well. We’ve followed the rules on social distancing, we’ve done a lot more cleaning and sanitising and the lads have been really flexible.
“The course was in very good condition when we reopened. We normally have a two-tee start, but that’s now down to a single tee and two-ball groups only, although this will be relaxed shortly. We’ve been booked solid and have a starter on the tee all day. Golfers must arrive 10 minutes prior to the allocated tee time and change in the car park. The only facility that’s open is the toilets.
“There was a lot of talk about golf being allowed back earlier than it was, but I think it would have been seen as elitist if this happened. Now that it is back it might help encourage more participants, as it is one of few sports that can adapt in these strange times. Only time will tell.”
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk (26 March 2020) Agwood Ltd, based at Swingfield, near Dover in Kent, is the latest turf machinery dealership to join the Price Turfcare Ventrac dealer network in the UK.
Agwood was formed by Ian Wood back in 1978. An independent company, they pride themselves on their record of exemplary customer service demonstrated by their recognition as BAGMA Approved Testers for Trailer Brakes, PUWER and LOLER Approved Installers of Tracker and Cesar Datatag and NSTS Sprayer Testers.
Commenting on the appointment, Phil Bush said;
“Since Rupert Price launched his business three years ago, the Ventrac product has really taken off in the UK. It’s a very well-made piece of equipment, yet easy to work on. It’s also very versatile because of the numerous attachments that can be mounted on it. Rupert has done a tremendous amount of groundwork in the past three years and it’s certainly paying off as our industry recognises the potential of the multi-purpose machine. We are delighted to add this remarkable brand to our product portfolio that already includes Massey Ferguson’s range of tractors, harvesting and groundcare equipment, along with Lemken, Opico and Suzuki ATVs.
Rupert Price, Managing Director of Price Turfcare, the UK and Ireland distributor of the Ventrac 4500 compact tractor, added,
“We are steadily building our dealer network and only taking on reputable dealers who we believe will add value to the brand. We require our dealers to be pro-active, focussed on the product and capable of providing exceptional customer back-up and support. Agwoods’ exemplify these requirements and we’re delighted to welcome them to the Ventrac family.”
Price Turfcare’s current dealers are: Fairways (GM) Ltd; Nairn Brown; Lairds Grass Machinery; Davies Tractors; John Osman Groundcare; Russell Group’s Groundcare Division; Sharrocks; Cheshire Turf Machinery; Fentons of Bourne; RT Machinery; Upson Mowers; Agwood Ltd; TH White Groundcare; and Devon Garden Machinery.
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk (12 February 2020) The Rothschild Foundation has purchased a Ventrac 4500 all-terrain compact tractor and Tough Cut mowing deck from supplying dealer, RT Machinery Ltd, to help maintain the gardens and grounds at Waddesdon Manor near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire. The Foundation manages Waddesdon on behalf of the National Trust.
Mike Buffin is Gardens Managerat Waddesdon and heads a team of 14 full-time gardeners and four students on one-year assignments. His impressive CV includes working at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh, the University of Pennsylvania, the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens and National Trust. The gardens department manages over 400 acres at Waddesdon.
“We have wildflower meadows dotted around the estate, many on challenging slopes,” he said. “I’m attempting a change to the direction of our maintenance regimes, looking to get more versatility from our equipment and taking a more environmental approach, where possible.
“There’s a broad expanse of lawn at the front of the house, which takes a lot of wear at our annual events, such as the Christmas Fair, Colourscape in May, Summer Fest in July and Chilli Fest each September. The initial demo highlighted the benefits of the Aera-vator in relieving the compaction and the overseeding attachment worked particularly well. However, it was on the wildflower banks where the machine really came into its own. It was a wet day and the Tough Cut deck performed admirably in these challenging areas. We have been using several different mowers to achieve the high level of presentation expected at Waddesdon. The versatility of the Ventrac has simplified this and it is now one of our principal mowers.
“RT Machinery have been excellent and the ability to hire-in attachments means we have the opportunity to undertake an extended evaluation to enable us to draw up a shortlist of attachments for future purchase. It’s the ideal machine for us because of its versatility, the ease of changing attachments and its slope mowing capabilities.”
Waddesdon Manor was built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild between 1874 and 1885 to display his collection of arts and to entertain the fashionable world. Opened to the public in 1959, Waddesdon Manor is managed by the Rothschild Foundation on behalf of the National Trust, who took over ownership in 1957. It’s home to the Rothschild Collection of paintings, sculpture and decorative arts.
The estate includes the Dairy, a beautiful and historic 19th century building, used exclusively as a wedding venue; the Five Arrows Hotel, Windmill Hill Archive and Flint House, a domestic dwelling commissioned by Lord Rothschild and completed in 2015, winning that year’s RIBA House of the Year Award.
Norse Commercial Services (NCS) has purchased a Ventrac 4500 all-terrain compact tractor and Tough Cut deck, through supplying dealer Ernest Doe & Sons, to help maintain the embankments of the new Broadland Northway. The 19.5 km (12 mile) dual carriageway, formerly known as the Norwich Northern Distributor Road (NNDR) connects traffic from the eastern approaches to the northwest of the city.
Completed in April 2018
at a cost of £208 million, it has 39 km (24 miles) of embankments that have
been planted with 380,000 native shrubs and trees, including gorse, oak, acer
and hawthorn. Areas with no tree or shrub planting have been seeded with four
differing mixes of wildflower seeds. It is these wildflower areas that the
Ventrac and Tough Cut deck are maintaining.
Simon Mutten is the
Head of Policy and Strategy at GYB Services, Project Co-ordinator for the NCS
and lead liaison with the client, Norfolk County Council. Commenting on the new
machine he said,
Management Plan requires a cut and rake of the wildflower sections twice a
year. This is the first year that the embankments have been cut and we required
a machine to work alongside our existing Roboflail, to increase productivity on
the larger areas. We have 1.5 million square metres to maintain, so we were
looking for something more productive to ensure that we provide best value to
Martin Adcock is Operations
Manager at Norwich Norse Environmental, one of the three companies involved in
the joint venture to maintain the highway, and was the person tasked with
finding a solution to the maintenance issue.
“My first action was an internet search for slope mowers. Remote controlled mowers, including our Roboflail, featured prominently but productivity was an issue due to their limited width of cut. The Ventrac also featured in the search and, with its 1.7 metre cutting width and maximum speed of around 16 km an hour, it appeared that it could do the job. However, I had not heard of the machine before and was quite sceptical. I contacted our dealer, Ernest Doe, who is a trusted partner and has supplied us with groundscare equipment for many years.
“They advised that they had experience of the machine and could arrange a demonstration, which was done very quickly. Once I’d seen it in action, and had a chance to operate it myself, I realised that it would certainly do the job for us. The demo was brilliant; it tackled the embankments with ease and left a very acceptable finish. With a ground pressure of just 6 psi, it’s gentle on the newly established slopes and can be used at 30 degrees, something no other ride-on machine can achieve. We are also using it around the lagoons that take the water run-off from the road.”