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.
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.
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
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.”