Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk (17 May 2021) Royal Norwich, the first ‘Royal’ golf club ever to relocate to a new site, is the latest organisation to appreciate the multiple benefits of Ventrac. Situated on the Weston Estate to the north of Norwich, they recently took delivery of a Ventrac 4500 all-terrain compact tractor in dual-wheel configuration and a Contour mowing deck.
Peter Todd is the highly respected turf manager who, in his role as estate manager and director on the Club’s board, specified the purchase following a demonstration earlier this year. He began his career in 1990 working for Transcontinental Golf Construction, a hands-on role that included constructing the Nicklaus Signature courses at both Gleneagles and then the London Golf Club. He stayed on for the grow-in at the London, rising through the ranks to course manager, and managed the staging of numerous televised tournaments including the Volvo World Match Play Championship 2014 and the European Opens in 2008 and 2009.
“I first met Rupert Price, the owner of the UK Ventrac franchise, at London Golf Club just prior to leaving to take up this appointment,” he said. “I was extremely impressed by it’s all-round capabilities, but as I was leaving to join Royal Norwich, I didn’t think it pertinent to pursue the purchase.
“However, that positive impression stayed with me and I contacted him for another demonstration, so that my new team could see it on our course and have the chance to evaluate it; a structured process of evaluation that we always go through when considering a major cap-ex machinery purchase.
“My primary concern is the safety of my staff when operating equipment, especially on sloping terrain around greens, bunkers and tee surrounds. We demoed machines from the major manufacturers, but none could safely carry out these two prime tasks on the sloping ground.
“The Ventrac is the only machine that can handle the pronounced shaping around the course without scalping. It’s exceptionally stable, especially with its dual-wheel configuration, articulating frame and low centre of gravity. The Contour deck flexes superbly to follow the ground contours and its counter-rotating blades ensure the cuttings are thrown backwards and not on to the greens. Its manoeuvrability around our rectangular tees is exceptional, allowing it to turn through 90 degrees easily and efficiently. What you get is all the attributes of a four-wheel mower with the manoeuvrability of three-wheel machine.
“I also like the out-front set-up of the Ventrac with all the attachments clearly visible to the operator. The 3-point hitch at the back is useful as we can attach drag mats and, because of its very low ground pressure, use it on greens for brushing in top dressing.
“Obviously, mowing slopes in the wet is challenging for most equipment, but this is where the Ventrac excels. However, in dry conditions the grass becomes ‘glassy’ and can be equally slippery, but again, not an issue for this machine.
“We had a demonstration of the Trencher attachment and I can see this being beneficial in soft areas, especially in the autumn and the blower is a definite possibility as we are a parkland course and can get out in the very wet winter and spring conditions that have become a feature of our weather. This is undoubtedly, a very versatile machine.”
The Royal Norwich course at Weston Estate opened on 16th September 2019 with Ryder Cup legend Ian Poulter playing the inaugural round to mark the completion of the 10-year project to create a world-class sporting venue in East Anglia.
The 18-hole genderless course was designed by Ross McMurray of European Golf Design and built by the UK’s leading golf course contractors to the highest industry standards. It is capable of hosting the sport’s leading events in the future. It also includes a 6-hole academy course, built to the same specifications as the main course and designed to both encourage new players into the sport and limit playing time to under an hour; something which has been identified as key to growing engagement in the sport.
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk (6 April 2021) Essendon Country Club, located deep in the heart of the Hertfordshire countryside, has purchased a Ventrac 4500 compact tractor and a trencher attachment to help maintain its two 18-hole parkland courses.
Course Manager Craig Gibson, an industry veteran of 31 years, is delighted with the new addition to his fleet and says;
“It’s fantastic; I’m hugely impressed. It’s not often a piece of kit excites us, but this is very different as we can use it all year round. The lads love it, it’s easy to use as you can just jump on and go. It’s really popular with the team.
“I first saw it at another club and was impressed with its tidy finish, then by chance Rupert Price cold-called me to see if we wanted a demo, so I invited him along. We have a clay-based courses and can be very wet in winter, but this machine is brilliant in the wet. Following the demo, it was like a ‘light bulb’ moment, so I made the made the business case to the club management and we agreed the purchase.
“At the moment we have the Trencher attachment as we’re putting in additional drainage, but Rupert kindly loaned me a Tough Cut deck as well, which is an awesome attachment and makes light work of brush and scrub in the woodland margins.
“My next purchase will definitely be the Contour deck attachment. This is an articulating deck which we will use for our bunkers and green surrounds. That’s the unique selling point of Ventrac; it’s so versatile and it can get to areas on the course that other machines simply can’t access.”
After leaving school in 1990, Craig Gibson completed a Level 2 NVQ in Sports Turf Management before taking up his first job at Welwyn Garden City Golf Club. From here he moved to the Forest of Dean, then onto Forest Hills as deputy course manager, where he spent 10 years. He then returned to Hertfordshire as head groundsman at St Christopher’s School in Letchworth before joining Essendon as course manager in 2007.Essendon Country Club (formerly Hatfield London Country Club) consists of two 18-hole parkland courses, known as The Old course and The New course. The Old course is an undulating 6,800-yard mature parkland course designed by Fred Hawtree and opened in 1976. The New course, opened in 1992, is somewhat flatter but at 7,100 yard offers a challenge to any golfer. The club has a modern approach to golf welcoming all levels of golfer and the clubhouse, built around a 16th century barn, offers excellent facilities.
Castle Stuart Golf Links, situated close to Inverness and overlooking the Moray Firth, is the latest Scottish golfing venue to purchase a Ventrac 4500 all-terrain compact tractor and a selection of attachments. Delivered by local dealer, Double A Trading Company Ltd, the package includes the 25 hp all-terrain compact tractor unit in its 8-wheel configuration, a Contour deck, a Tough Cut deck and Power Rake.
James Hutchison has been Head Greenkeeper since 2017, when he was promoted to the post from his previous position as deputy. He has been with the club for 14 years, since the beginning of the course build in 2007, so the course is in his DNA.
Commenting on the purchase of the Ventrac and attachments he said,
“This an excellent and versatile addition to our machinery fleet. Initially we’ve purchased three attachments, but I’m sure that over time we’ll be adding to this.
“The Tough Cut deck certainly lives up to its name. We’re using it extensively to take out the broom and gorse that has thrived here over the years. Its rapid growth tends to hide the undulations surrounding the fairways and can obscure the magnificent views over the Moray Firth, which is one of our strong selling points for visiting golfers. Some areas of the course are receiving their first cut in three years and it makes short work of a job that was previously done by a team with brushcutters. The combination of the 8-wheel tractor unit and Tough Cut deck feels really safe, especially when I’ve been using it on 30-degree slopes.
“We’ll be using the Contour deck as a replacement for our old John Deere rotary mower and this will maintain the semi-rough at around 38mm, with the option of raising the height of cut to 100mm, should it be necessary.
“The Power Rake attachment is going to save us time and money when it comes to maintaining the pathways around the course. These were constructed from basic hardcore and Type 1 aggregate when the course was built and do suffer from potholes caused by our machinery and the buggy fleet. I would usually send out three guys to fix potholes, but with this implement that will be reduced to just one.
“I’m now looking at a demonstration of the triple cylinder mowing unit to see if that will suit our future needs. There aren’t any other machines that can swap between rotary and cylinder units plus attach other implements such as trenchers, blowers and even stump grinders. This just demonstrates how versatile the Ventrac is!”Designed by Gil Hanse and Mark Parsinen, Castle Stuart’s championship golf links opened in 2009 and features 18 holes with stunning views across the water to the Black Isle including Kessock bridge and Chanonry lighthouse. It has hosted the Scottish Open on four occasions and won numerous awards including the GEO Certified® ecolabel, an international accolade that recognises its high standards of performance in nature conservation, water and energy efficiency, ethical and environmental supply chain, pollution control and community engagement.
The Yorkshire Wildlife Park, situated in the village of Branton, close to the A1 near Doncaster, is the latest organisation to purchase a Ventrac 4500 compact tractor to help maintain its 150-acre walkthrough safari experience.
Delivered by the Rotherham depot of local dealer, Russells Groundscare, the package includes the tractor unit in its 8-wheel configuration and two mowing units: a Tough Cut deck and MU rotary deck.
Commenting on the purchase, Director Neville Williams said; “Lockdown has been a torrid time for us; we’ve suffered a multi-million-pound loss, so we weren’t really contemplating any significant capital expenditure. However, we had issues with our mowing equipment and our mechanic suggested we contact Russells to see what was available.
“Glen Sawyer from Russells came over with a Ventrac demo machine and it performed extremely well, but we didn’t think we could justify the cost. However, Glen was able to organise a flexible lease-purchase arrangement together with a mutual partnership agreement, and that facilitated the purchase. They also loaned us a Power Rake, which was superb at reinstating the pathways and we will be looking to purchase the Trencher attachment in the future.
“As you would expect, we have huge areas of grass to maintain and much of it is on sloping ground around the car parks, picnic areas and in the animal enclosures. We previously had to employ a contractor for these sloped areas, but with the Ventrac we can now do this in-house. The cost effectiveness of this new machine was certainly a factor in our purchasing decision. For example, in the lion enclosure it used to take four men, three days to complete, but now with the Ventrac it is two men in half a day. That’s a very impressive saving in man-days; 12 days reduced down to a single day!
“This year we will be opening an expansion which will double the size of the park and this will include the creation of lakes, reserves and diverse habitats, so the Park can become home to more animals and springboard our efforts to help at-risk species. The Ventrac will play an important part in maintaining this extension to our facilities.”
About Yorkshire Wildlife Park
The Yorkshire Wildlife Park (YWP) was opened in 2009 and currently occupies about 150 acres (60 ha) of the site. The Park is home to number of endangered species including Amur tigers, Amur leopards, Red panda, Giant otters and England’s only Polar bears. The expansive reserves and space for visitors creates a walkthrough safari experience.In 2021 a further 150-acre expansion will open with more ground-breaking animal reserves and new species for the Park, as well as enhanced visitor facilities. Lakes, reserves and diverse habitats will be introduced in the expansion, so the Park can become home to more animals and springboard efforts to help at-risk species. Landscaped walkways and dynamic viewing areas will provide visitors with an amazing experience.
YWP work with the studbook keepers of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria who coordinate the breeding programmes and animal moves throughout Europe. This will decide which new species will be introduced, allowing the Park to continue their conservation efforts and protect a range of endangered animals.
The park’s popularity has grown over the years, starting in 2009 with only 66,000 visitors; it now hosts in excess of 750,000 visitors a year.
Back in the spring of 2020,The Wildernesse Golf Club, located in the village of Seal near Sevenoaks in Kent, purchased a Ventrac 4500 compact tractor and selection of attachments to assist in the maintenance of its magnificent wooded 18-hole course.
At the time, Course Manager Mark Todd described his new acquisition as a ‘gamechanger’. Ten months on does he still feel the same way?
“Yes, without a doubt,” he said. “It’s continued to work brilliantly for us. It has around 250-300 hours on it; more perhaps than we anticipated. During this latest lockdown we’ve adjusted our working hours and split into two teams of four; one headed by Lee Austin, my deputy, and the other by myself. The team, as always, have stepped up to the mark and continued with the winter projects in sometimes quite challenging conditions, and both the club and myself are very grateful for their efforts.
“Without any golfers on the course we can get on with a lot of winter maintenance and, again, the is where the Ventrac comes into its own. We can get out whatever the weather because its brilliant in the wet and hardly leaves a mark on the course. The Tough Cut deck has lived up to its name when clearing woodland margins, while the Turbo blower has been a godsend.
“Previously we spent far too many hours using backpack blowers removing leaves and other debris from tees, approaches and surrounds, not just in the autumn, but all year round. Having the Turbine blower has enabled one guy to do the job that four guys did previously in a similar time, saving many man-hours. In addition to leaf clearance, it has also been put to good use removing debris after scarifying tees and even blowing cores from the greens after aeration.
“During the autumn, the Contour mowing deck excelled, allowing us to keep mowing during a period of really heavy use. I’m sure that after this lockdown is over; there’s going to be a huge pent-up demand for golf and the Club is looking very closely at ways to ensure that the Members have largely unfettered access to the course.
“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. We’ve had absolutely no issues and I’ve been pleasantly surprised. It’s definitely a hard-working piece of kit.”
Deputy Course Manager, Lee Austin, mowing tee surrounds at The Wildernesse
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk (25 November 2020) Saunton Golf Club, situated south of Woolacombe on the coast of north Devon, is the latest golfing venue to purchase a Ventrac 4500 all-terrain compact tractor and a selection of attachments. Delivered by local dealer, Devon Garden Machinery, the package includes the 25 hp tractor unit in its 8-wheel configuration, a Contour deck, a Tough Cut deck and Power Rake.
Formed in 1897 as a 9-hole course, the 103-year old club now has two 18-hole championship-standard links courses, with reputations that stand comparison with the finest in the UK. The East Course is ranked No.12 in the Golf World ‘Top 100 Courses in England’ and the West Course is No. 98.
Murray Long, the former Courses Manager at Sunningdale, has recently been appointed Course Manager at Saunton. Commenting on the Ventrac he said,
“We need to control bramble and scrub around the courses and we have pathways made of seashell shingle, which can become rutted and uneven over time. The practice ranges are enclosed by steep banks, which we maintain by the labour-intensive job of strimming. To tackle these issues, we needed a versatile machine and thought that a Ventrac might provide the solution.
“I first saw it during visits to BTME and then became aware of the positive feedback from respected industry professionals in our trade magazines and on social media. Following our initial enquiry to local dealer, Devon Garden Machinery, they quickly provided quotes and a demonstration, which confirmed the premise that this was the machine for us. Their service has been excellent throughout.
“Until you experience it working, it’s had to appreciate how versatile it is. We purchased the Tough Cut deck, which will help combat the bramble and scrub issue; the Contour deck will be used on the banking around the practice area and some areas of rough. The Power Rake is great attachment as it agitates the shingle, smoothing out the ruts, leaving pristine pathways.
“It will certainly increase productivity and reduce the use of machinery linked to hand/arm vibration hazard, such as strimmers. It is unique in its multi-use applications giving it extreme versatility. I have seen many machinery demonstrations but none have been as impressive as the Ventrac. Every course would benefit from having one.”
Saunton’s General Manager, Jon Sutherland added,
“As Murray has indicated, it was a very impressive demonstration. I hadn’t seen the machine before, but it quickly became apparent that not only would it increase the productivity of the greenkeeping team, but also safeguard them as well. Paul Vickery, our Chairman of Greens, attended the demonstration and we quickly made the purchasing decision. It will certainly contribute to raising the already high presentation standards of our facility, for members and visitors alike.”
Saunton has hosted the R&A Boys Amateur Championship on two occasions. In August 2019, 252 of the world’s most talented boys battled it out over our East and West Courses. After 91 holes of play, the winner Tom Gueant of France beat Wilmer Ederö from Sweden in a sudden-death play-off on the first hole of the East course. Saunton also hosted the Championship back in 1997, when a young Sergio Garcia won the title, before amassing the highest points total for Europe in Ryder Cup history, and also winning the Masters Tournament back in 2017.