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.”
The Ventrac will support the Football Club’s new £100 Million Training Centre
Leicester City Football Club, last season’s FA Cup winners, is the latest organisation to appreciate the multiple benefits of Ventrac. Delivered by local dealer, Farols, the package included a Ventrac 4500 all-terrain compact tractor in dual-wheel configuration, a Contour mowing deck, Trencher and Power Broom and will be used to maintain their new world-class training centre of at Seagrave in Leicestershire.
Following a demonstration earlier this year and with input from his team, John Ledwidge, Head of Sports Turf and Grounds at the Premier League club, specified the purchase. He is an integral part of the team that has developed the world-class training facility, where he oversees the management and development of the 180-acre site. This includes the equivalent of 14 turf pitches, synthetic pitches, a 9-hole golf course and the world’s first dedicated Sports Turf Academy.
Commenting on the latest addition to the machinery fleet, he said,
“Our owner is passionate about this football club and the community we share. He wants the very best and this facility demonstrates that commitment. We all share his vision and our aim is to make this the premier training centre in Europe.
“To be fair, we took a lot of our inspiration from the exceptional job Darren Baldwin has done at Tottenham’s facility, where we first saw the Ventrac in action during the research phase of the plan. I’d also seen it at various trade fairs and in the media. We needed a machine that was highly versatile, that can help us here improve a site that’s going to be constantly evolving over the next five years.
“The Contour deck helps us maintain the numerous banks and sloped areas around the complex, including ‘Mount Vardy’, the nickname we’ve given to a landscaped area of unused spoil from the original build. It is also used on the golf course where its articulated design prevents scalping. We’ve used the Trencher to insert drainage bands in some particularly wet areas of the golf course and the Power Broom does a great job on the pathways and carparks. It’s all about quality presentation and the versatility of the Ventrac helps us achieve the high standards demanded here.”
Chris Minton is the club’s Head Mechanic, supervising a team of three in the state-of-the-art Maintenance Facility located within the Sports Turf Academy building. Commenting on the Ventrac he said, “It’s a very good and impressive piece of kit; robustly constructed and powerful, considering it has a sub-25 hp engine. It’s simple to work on, all the belts are easily accessible as are the greasing points and the flip-up decks make our job easier when we need to access the blades or blade spindles. Definitely a very good addition to our fleet.”
John Ledwidge’s career
John began his career in 2002 as an apprentice groundsman at Coventry City where, at the tender age of 19, he was promoted to Deputy Head Groundsman. In 2008 he was appointed Assistant Grounds Manager at Aston Villa and 18 months later returned to Coventry to take up the Head Groundsman role, where he was responsible for directing pitch preparations for the London 2012 Olympics at the City of Coventry Stadium (now the Ricoh Arena).
Following the much-publicised issues at Coventry during this time, he then joined Ricoh Arena in the role of Grounds Manager and in 2014 was successful when he applied for Head Groundsman’s position at Leicester City. In 2016 he was promoted to Grounds Manager and then in July 2019 he took up his current role as Head of Sports Turf and Grounds, where he leads a team of 52 staff working across multiple sites and is actively involved in the ongoing development and investment in the class-leading sports turf surfaces at the club.
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.