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.
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.”