Jacobsen support for the Australian Masters at Metropolitan Golf Club

The following article comes to you courtesy of turfmate.com, an Australian internet publisher based in Victoria, which supports the turfgrass industry across Australasia and beyond. This article was originally published on 23rd December 2014 and was written by their in-house journalist Amy Foyster.



The Australian Masters, which took place at Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne from 20-23 November 2014, were a sight to behold, so turfmate caught up with superintendent Glenn Stuart, to discuss tournament week and the lead up to it.

When the tournament was first confirmed to Metropolitan in March 2014, Glenn and his team were already in the midst of preparations, having heard whispers back in January that the club would be hosting the Masters. The main aim for Glenn in those early months was to position the turf to be in as healthy a state as possible going into the autumn.

“We had the view that if we went in really strong with our turf in autumn and protected it during the winter months we would come out in spring really strong. The tournament was in November and a Melbourne November is always very tricky for a tournament because you don’t know what sort of weather you are going to get.

Metro clubhouse-course“If you look at 2013’s November, it was a long stretch of cool and wet weather leading right into the event with temperatures well below their average. Royal Melbourne hosted this same event at the same time and it was a very difficult task for them to get the turf to their level of expectation due to the weather. The sandbelt* golf courses don’t typically shine that well if the spring weather conditions in the Melbourne area are not favourable.

“So, we prepared for the worst by doing lots of things; we cleaned every drainage system out on the golf course, we set the turf in a really good position in case we got intense frosts and a cold spring, so we would give ourselves the best chance to present our major asset, being the golf course, in the best possible state that we could. And fortunately, all those things that we did worked well and we didn’t get that really cold spring we had the previous season; the spring was actually quite reasonable.”

metropolitan 002A lot of the processes Glenn and his team used to ensure the course would be in prime shape come tournament time involved putting the correct nutrition in the ground as well as renovating areas of the course. Most of the renovations were undertaken approximately three months before the tournament commenced and these included coring greens and verti-draining some fairways and tees to allow water to move through the profile successfully. Protectants were also used through the winter months to prevent any issues with frost and cutting heights were raised on mowers to protect the turf throughout autumn and winter.

Metropolitan Golf Club have a strong relationship with Jacobsen and used a range of their cutting equipment in the lead up to the tournament.

Masters3“In spring we were fortunate enough to purchase three state-of-the-art LF550 fairway mowers from Jacobsen and they were run out on our fairways and did an absolutely brilliant job.

“They are lightweight mowers with a five inch cylinder instead of the typical seven inch cylinder that most other clubs use and we have just found them to be fantastic.

“Jacobsen, particularly for the cutting equipment and the resulting quality of cut side of things, has been exceptional for us.

Metro clubhouse-course“From a superintendent’s eye, it is just that difference in quality of cut that we see, because these mowers are a bit lighter they are able to mow through really intense hollows and over mounds, things that are quite challenging for a square cylinder to cut.

“We put little grooming reels on all those mowers too so we could actually find the leaf blade on all the turf and that just worked exceptionally well. We believe it is some of the best cutting equipment you can use on turf.”

Glenn says that when players first arrived during tournament week, he was delighted to hear some of their comments praising the quality of the course.

Masters2“There were a number of players quoted saying that these were the best fairways in the world and the best greens in the world, so our club was really proud of that. That comes down to a whole lot of things and we are really proud as a club and a maintenance group to achieve this praise.”

Aside from the course looking pristine, the bunkers and tree line plantations were also a big priority for Glenn, as he believes they should reflect the quality of the turf and provide a lasting experience across the whole course.

For the majority of this year, a dedicated group of 15 or so members have helped maintenance staff at fortnightly working parties, designed to rejuvenate and assist the course staff in the plantation areas.

A month prior to the tournament, a couple of larger working parties with around 50 members in attendance were held, to finish off smaller jobs like divoting fairways with greens sand and removing branches and other debris in the tree lines to clean the course for play and ensure that television cameras would project a clean appearance of the course.

Glenn says that aside from the invaluable help from the Metropolitan members, 15 to  20 volunteer grounds staff from a number of other golf courses (Royal Melbourne, Victoria,  Kingston Heath, Huntingdale, Yarra Yarra, Woodlands, Long Island Country Club, Patterson River, The Dunes) were present to help in the final stages of preparation.

“From a month out we had people from other clubs coming to volunteer for us as well, so we had an average of four extra staff a day to ensure we kept ahead of our scheduled program in case inclement weather hit or an unforseen challenge arised.

Masters1“We have 15 full time staff that includes myself and a full time mechanic, Euan Muir, and that team swelled up to 40 on the mornings of the tournament. All those people volunteered their services or other clubs were prepared to lend us staff for that period.

“Around 450 man hours were given from other clubs to help with the work, so it was a pretty intense little build up. It just shows the magnitude of the work that goes on behind the scenes to deliver a tournament to the professional players.”

During tournament week the hours were long and exhausting for everyone involved. On the practise round days (Monday and Tuesday) the maintenance staff worked from 6 am to 8 pm, while on the Pro-Am day they started at 4 am. Pro-Am days have two shotgun starts, so they worked from 4 am until 9 am, then from 5 pm until 11 pm.

“Then the tournament days from 4.30 am till 9 am and some guys went home whilst others stayed to be on call, then everyone would be back from 4 pm to 10 pm,” says Glenn wearily.

Course4“A lot didn’t leave during the day because of the 65 km north winds, so seven or eight guys were on stand-by, blowing leaf litter off greens. But all-in-all it was hugely successful Australian golfing tournament run by IMG and showcased to a worldwide audience on a great traditional sandbelt golf course at The Metropolitan Golf Club.”

(*Note: In the south eastern suburbs of Melbourne is a rich vein of sandy loam subsoil upon which are situated eight of the best golf courses in Australia and known throughout the world as the famous Melbourne Sandbelt. These Clubs have played host to countless great championships including Australian Opens, Johnnie Walker Classics, Australian Masters, the World Matchplay Championship, Australian Women’s Opens and the President’s Cup.)

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The Grass Master

Alabama sod grower ready to present his 7th Super Bowl field to the world

Bent Oak Farm At-A-Glance

Location: Foley, Alabama
Founder & Co-Owner: Mark Paluch
Turf: Variety of turfgrass plots grown for major league sports venues around the U.S.
Equipment: Jacobsen® LF570 large area reel mowers
Bent Oak Farm Founder & Owner Mark Paluch (right) and Jacobsen Territory Sales Manager Kevin Stinnett (left) on the Super Bowl XLIX field at Paluch’s farm in Foley, Alabama.

Bent Oak Farm Founder & Co-Owner Mark Paluch (right) and Jacobsen Territory Sales Manager Kevin Stinnett (left) on the Super Bowl XLIX field at Paluch’s farm in Foley, Alabama.

He doesn’t have a business card or an office. His farm doesn’t even have a sign. But when the NFL, Major League Baseball or college conferences like the SEC need a professional turfgrass playing field, they call Mark Paluch and Bent Oak Farm.

Paluch’s grass is so popular among the top college and professional sports field managers that it’s almost become legendary. Throughout all his success growing elite turfgrass, Paluch has always preferred to stay out of the spotlight and let his product speak for itself.

But Paluch’s grass is the best spokesperson anyone could ask for: it has covered all the natural grass fields in the last decade’s Super Bowls. With billions of people watching his handiwork every year, Paluch’s patch of grass may be the most watched in history.

Just a few weeks ago, the field for Super Bowl XLIX left Paluch’s farm in Foley, Alabama inside 34 refrigerated trucks, headed for Phoenix. Like a newborn baby, it was carefully rolled and shrink wrapped for the long trip. The refrigeration keeps the grass cool and slows down the growth, says Paluch.

The thick mat of Paluch’s 419 bermudagrass is over-seeded at his farm in Alabama with any variety his customers choose. This year’s Super Bowl field is over-seeded with perennial ryegrass.

The thick mat of Paluch’s 419 bermudagrass is over-seeded at his farm in Alabama with any variety his customers choose. This year’s Super Bowl field is over-seeded with perennial ryegrass.

After beginning life on a 200-acre farm in Georgia, each field is transported to Alabama, where it is “enhanced” as Paluch calls it. This enhancement process includes final over-seeding, fertilization and round-the-clock monitoring. Paluch’s grass is a base of 419 bermuda grass that is over-seeded with whatever variety his customer specifies. This year’s Super Bowl field is over-seeded perennial ryegrass.

“During the last two weeks before the Super Bowl field went to Phoenix, we practically slept here,” said Paluch. “My guys live eight minutes from the farm in case we need to pull tarps in the middle of the night. Just a quarter of an inch of rain will cost an extra $50,000 in freight.”

Whether it’s the grass for the Super Bowl, an SEC powerhouse like Alabama or Auburn, or a Major League Baseball team like the Astros, Braves or Marlins, the team at Bent Oak Farm treats every inch of grass with the same level of care and strict attention to detail.

Bent Oak Farm is equipped with a state-of-the-art irrigation system with over 1,000 individual sprinkler heads, ensuring every single blade of grass is watered correctly and consistently.

Bent Oak Farm is equipped with a state-of-the-art irrigation system with over 1,000 individual sprinkler heads, ensuring every single blade of grass is watered correctly and consistently.

Bent Oak Farm’s team pulls strings that serve as plumb lines to keep the hand spreaders laser-straight with every pass. An advanced irrigation system with over 1,000 individual heads ensures each blade of grass is watered correctly and consistently. Every detail at Bent Oak Farm has been meticulously thought through, including its location.

“I didn’t pick this location by accident. We’re less than two miles from the Gulf of Mexico,” says Paluch. “Being so close to the water keeps us five to eight degrees cooler than surrounding areas. This area is ideal for growing grass, that’s why 400-500 loaded sod trucks leave this county every week.”

Paluch started growing grass in Hawaii during the late 90s. He started experimenting with growing turf on plastic and eventually perfected a process that produces extremely dense, thick turf that looks and lays down just like carpet. Just how thick is Paluch’s turf? A 41.5-foot x 3.5-foot roll of his turf is the same diameter as a standard 100-foot roll.

Grass that dense, growing on a bed of plastic, needs almost zero soil to grow. The turfgrass world – along with the NFL – found this out during the 2007 Super Bowl in Miami.

“It rained several days before the Super Bowl and an inch during the game itself. Everyone assumed it would be a complete mudslide,” said Paluch. “The expectations of a muddy field forced Vegas odds-makers to list the Chicago Bears as a heavy favorite (over the dome-sheltered Indianapolis Colts) as they excelled in sloppy conditions. I was sitting at home wondering where the mud was coming from because there was no dirt in that grass! I was right – the field played absolutely perfectly that night. You’ll hear the date of that Super Bowl, 2/3/07, a lot around this farm because after that, everything changed for us. The NFL knew we had something special here.”

Bent Oak Farm uses Jacobsen LF570 large-area reel mowers to maintain the grass.

Bent Oak Farm uses Jacobsen LF570 large-area reel mowers to maintain the grass.

But for Paluch and his team and Bent Oak, success is about more than growing perfect grass. They’ve also perfected an installation process that produces an extremely tight field with virtually no seams. Paluch spent years tinkering with different tools and inventions before creating the perfect mouse trap.

“We’ve got two machines that lay the grass down just like carpet,” Paluch explains. “The first machine can lay 41.5-feet in less than ten seconds. Then we us an excavator with a special 7-foot plate to tuck the grass into itself. The whole process does not leave one mark on the grass – it looks like it was rolled out by hand.”

Another one of Paluch’s favorite tools is his Jacobsen LF570 wide-area reel mower he uses for mowing.

“For what we do here, it’s the best mower I could ask for,” said Paluch. “We produce fields for some of the top sports teams in the world that demand the best of everything. These teams have millions of dollars in player salaries on our fields. They can’t afford the risk of a player being injured as the result of a sub-par field.”

For Mark Paluch, the outcome of Super Bowl XLIX isn’t important – he’s already chalked it up as another victory for the famous grass of Bent Oak Farm.

“We produce fields for some of the top sports teams in the world that demand the best of everything. These teams have millions of dollars in player salaries on our fields. They can’t afford the risk of a player being injured as the result of a sub-par field.” ~Mark Paluch, Co-Owner & Founder of Bent Oak Farm

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A Family Affair

Louisville Superintendent’s sons learn about turf and more on maintenance crew

Hurstbourne Country Club At-A-Glance

Year Opened: 1966
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
Superintendent: Walter Pritchett, CGCS
Turf: Penn A1/A4 bentgrass on the greens; L93 bentgrass on approaches and tees; zoysia on fairways; bluegrass and fescue mix in the roughs
Equipment: Jacobsen ECLIPSE2 122F walking greens mowers (4); Jacobsen ECLIPSE 322 riding greens mower (1); Jacobsen LF570 fairway mowers (2); Jacobsen R311T wide-area rotary mowers (2)

Superintendent Walter Pritchett of Hurstbourne Country Club

Located in Louisville, Kentucky – a city rich with American tradition and history – Hurstborne Country Club boasts its own interesting story that dates back before the Civil War.

Although the club’s golf course is nearly fifty years old, some of the buildings on the property date back to the 1700s.

The Hurst family bought the property in the 1880s and oversaw extensive renovations and an expansion of the property. The family’s money came from Mr. Hurst’s simple and fortuitous invention of a weatherproofing material for telephone lines.

The course has always been known for the quality of its bentgrass greens, which have been maintained for more than a decade by Superintendent Walter Pritchett. The course is ranked as the number one member-owned course in Kentucky and number three overall in the state by Golf Digest.

“We’re known around Louisville as a challenging yet fair course,” said Pritchett. “We also stand out because we’re one of the few courses that have large bentgrass approaches, which is a nice touch. The bentgrass does very well in this region, typically there’s just a few weeks in the summer where you struggle, but for the most part, it does well.”

Hurstbourne Country Club is ranked as the number one member-owned course in Kentucky.

Hurstbourne Country Club is ranked as the number one member-owned course in Kentucky.

For Pritchett, turf management has been a family affair, with both his sons joining his turf team over the past few years.

“One of the benefits of being a superintendent is the flexibility we have,” said Pritchett. “One of the great privileges I’ve had in my career is being able to work with my sons. My oldest son worked for me for three seasons and is now doing an internship at Louisville Slugger and my youngest son is working here now.”

“Of course, they both hated it at first but quickly were able to better understand what they were doing and felt very accomplished and proud about the differences they could make on the course. For me, I like for them to see what I do for a living because they gain an appreciation for what they have and why they can go to the schools they do.”

Although he’s found a great labor pool in his own house, Pritchett’s biggest challenge has been keeping his roster filled.

“They say we’re still in a recession and there’s a lot of unemployment, but it’s been very difficult for us to find people that want to work for $10-$11 an hour,” said Pritchett. “We get a lot of teachers and students looking for jobs, but it’s hard to run a golf course when people just want to work three months out of the year.”

Pritchett has used some innovative techniques to both reduce maintenance costs and improve course quality for players.

To help dress up our driving range, we installed bunkers using white artificial turf, which makes them maintenance-free.

To help dress up the driving range, Pritchett installed bunkers using white artificial turf, which makes them maintenance-free.

“We’ve learned a few tricks along the way to improve the quality of the course and experience for members. For example, we replaced our own turning boards with plastic lattice. It’s a tenth of the price and it works just as well. Also, in an effort to dress up the driving range, we installed bunkers and instead of using sand, we used white artificial turf which makes them maintenance-free but still gives the golfer the visual of a bunker.”

“But probably more than anything we’ve done in the last few years to improve the golf course is learn how to use the moisture meters on our greens. Managing the moisture has made a huge difference in what we’re able to do and achieve.”

Part of that achievement is presenting consistently fast greens.

“We’re rolling 11.5 to 12.5 feet every day using the Jacobsen ECLIPSE2 walking greens mowers set at .125” with 15-blade reels and brushes,” said Pritchett. “To get that with our previous Toro mowers, we’d have to mow at .100”. With the Jacobsen mowers, I’m getting 15% more leaf tissue for photosynthesis and fertilizer uptake. We were one of the first courses in the area to use the Jacobsen reversing groomer/brush. Using it in reverse really stands up the grass.”

For special events, Pritchett likes to go even lower.

“For our pro-am Osborne Cup last year, we went down to .100” and were rolling 16’ with a double mow and roll. It didn’t even register on the prism. People absolutely loved it.”
But for Pritchett, service is just as important as product performance.

“The service from local Jacobsen dealer Wolf Creek has been unreal,” said Pritchett. “We had a motor issue with a fairway unit the morning of a tournament. Our Wolf Creek rep was here with a new one at 5:00am. I know he lives three hours away, so he left his house at 2:00am to make sure we had what we need. You just don’t get that kind of service from everybody. It’s been win-win for us with Jacobsen with the quality-of-cut and service.”

“One of the great privileges I’ve had in my career is being able to work with my sons… I like them to see what I do for a living because they gain an appreciation for what they have.” ~Walter Pritchett, Superintendent of Hurstbourne Country Club, Louisville, Kentucky

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Growing Grass & Knowledge

Parks Supervisor puts a priority on educating his superiors and employees about healthy turf

City of Mississauga At-A-Glance

Parks Supervisor: John D’Ovidio
Location: Mississauga, Ontario
Turf: Mix of Kentucky Blue and perennial ryegrass
Equipment: Jacobsen® HR-6010 large area rotary mowers (25); Jacobsen HR-9016 large area rotary mowers (10)
City of Mississauga Parks Supervisor John D'Ovidio

City of Mississauga Parks Supervisor John D’Ovidio

A Canadian city of almost 800,000, Mississauga boasts some of the most picturesque green spaces in Ontario. Parks Supervisor John D’Ovidio has been tasked with maintaining some of the most visible of these areas.

Beginning as a student 27 years ago, D’Ovidio worked his way up through the city until reaching his current role. He presently serves as the Parks Supervisor of the Core Parks Operations, which includes City Hall, 20 sports fields, 57 parks, 4 school fields, high-end horticultural beds, irrigation, playgrounds and more.

“I was in the architectural trade, but completed my horticultural diploma and the turf manager’s short course,” says D’Ovidio. “My favorite areas of turf to maintain are sports fields because I love seeing the impact of the equipment on the field, especially the striping after mowing.”

D’Ovidio manages over 70 employees including 18 full-time staff, 18 temporary and 32 students during the peak season.

“During the growing season, I am constantly going from place to place checking on the turf,” says D’Ovidio. “The most challenging part is the upkeep of the sports fields during peak season. The fields need to be playable every day beginning in May until the end of September. There are usually about three sports games per night and weekends can be even more.”

Ten years ago, Ontario became the first province in Canada to ban all pesticide use. This requires D’Ovidio to maintain vigorous cultural practices to keep the turf safe and healthy enough to keep out pests and weeds.

Because of these challenges, D’Ovidio places a high value on staff knowledge of turf health.

“I see a big part of my job as being a mentor to the staff. We often work alongside sports groups, planners, designers and consultants to determine what decisions will be the healthiest for the turf,” says D’Ovidio. “I’ll also send front line staff to trade shows so they can stay up-to-date on turf health.”

Another instance where D’Ovidio often plays the part of a mentor is with city groups and patrons.

“Many people have the misconception that grass just needs to be watered and cut. They don’t understand the intricacies of maintaining healthy turf,” says D’Ovidio.

One of D’Ovidio’s main focuses within Mississauga is City Hall and Celebration Square. Once considered a ghost town, the City Hall complex now entertains more than one million visitors per year. After $41 million in renovations, City Hall has transformed into a venue for over 100 events each year.

John D'Ovidio is also responsible for managing this large splash park, which converts to an ice rink during the winter.

John D’Ovidio is also responsible for managing this large splash park, which converts to an ice rink during the winter.

“In addition to maintaining the turf at City Hall, I am also responsible for managing the synthetic turf area, the ice rink in the winter, the splash pad in the summer and the remaining Celebration Square area,” explains D’Ovidio.

“One of the biggest projects within the renovation was the construction of the ice rink. The rink is 24,000 square feet, making it one of the largest outdoor rinks in Canada,” says D’Ovidio. “In the summer, we transition the ice rink into a splash pad, which can attract up to 400 people on any given weekend.”

Since City Hall and Celebration Square is one of D’Ovidio’s high-profile areas, he has 19 people on his crew designated to keeping it in top shape. This work includes maintaining the turf, shrubs, trees and sanitation areas.

With over 23,000 registrants using the sports fields every year, the turf has high visibility and needs to be healthy and playable at all times.

“When the staff completes their work, they feel great about the look of the turf. We’re able to pass that feeling down to the end-users and get them excited about the condition of the turf. When this happens, it’s much easier for our sports programs to get more funding for turf maintenance because they see the value in it. We can then show them exactly where their money is going and the great results we get from it.”

“On the high-end fields, we typically aerate once per month, unless weather or wear of the turf require it more frequently,” says D’Ovidio. “We have a mix of Kentucky blue grass and perennial ryegrass on the fields.”

The City of Mississauga uses 25 Jacobsen HR-6010 and 10 Jacobsen HR9016 large area rotary mowers to maintain a majority of the green spaces in the city.

“We typically mow at about 3 inches once or twice per week on our secondary fields and three times per week on our premier fields,” explains D’Ovidio.

John D'Ovidio and his team use over 35 Jacobsen large area rotary mowers to maintain sports fields, parks and other green spaces.

John D’Ovidio and his team use over 35 Jacobsen large area rotary mowers to maintain sports fields, parks and other green spaces.

“The Jacobsen rough mowers have been great for us. We’ve been able to cut a lot more grass in less time than we were cutting before. Their versatility has also been a huge bonus. The ability to lift up individual decks has given us the ability to work around trees and other tight areas,” explains D’Ovidio.

D’Ovidio values his crew’s opinion when it comes to choosing turf equipment.

“When I demo equipment, I have my operators demo the equipment as well. We will keep the machine temporarily to really test out how the equipment will work with our needs. The Jacobsen mowers we purchased were a hit with everyone. Two-thirds of my labor is part-time and we have over 200 students working throughout the year. The machines are safe and easy-to-use, which is perfect for the work force.”

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Jacobsen Eclipse 322 success on UK’s East Coast

Hunstanton clubhouse

Hunstanton clubhouse

Locals and visitors alike argue over which is the best course on the north Norfolk coast in the east of England. Is it Hunstanton or The Royal West Norfolk (Brancaster as the locals refer to it)?

Take the footballing analogy: Liverpool and Everton; Manchester United and Manchester City; Barcelona and Madrid; Arsenal and Chelsea – are they friends, rivals or sworn enemies?

Royal West Norfolk's clubhouse

Royal West Norfolk’s clubhouse

In the case of these two golf clubs, perhaps a better analogy would be coalition partners, situated just six miles apart and renowned as two of the premier links courses in the country; whichever one you choose for a golfing experience, you won’t be disappointed.

Royal West Norfolk was founded in 1892 and is unusual in that its ‘Royal’ status was conferred at the outset, when the Prince of Wales – later to become King Edward VII – accepted an invitation to become the club’s patron. One of the finest links courses in the area it has another unique feature in that the clubhouse is not accessible at high tide as the North Sea sweeps in around the nearby marshland and cuts it off from the mainland.

Hunstanton 042Hunstanton Golf Club is slightly older, having been established in March 1891. It is a championship links and is one of only two links courses on the East Coast of the UK between Royal St George’s in Kent and Muirfield in Scotland. The most notable feat, never to be repeated, occurred in the Eastern Counties Foursomes in 1974 when Bob Taylor, a Leicestershire County player, holed in one on three successive days at the same hole – the 188 yard, 16th. In 2005 he played the hole again and put his tee shot six feet from the hole!

Both courses are just metres from the North Sea, which in summer can be benign and sometimes, even blue. But come the winter, when seasonal storms batter the east coast of the UK, this force of nature can cause untold damage.

And that’s exactly what happened last winter (December 2013), when low pressure sat over the North Sea causing gale force northerly winds which coincided with that month’s spring tide. The result was a tidal surge, greater than that of infamous 1953 flood which struck the east coast of England, killing over 300 people.

Fortunately, coastal defences have been improved over time and no lives were lost, but it wasn’t enough to stop a disastrous flood devastating part of the clubhouse and the machinery storage facility at The Royal West Norfolk.

The sea sweeps in and cuts off the Royal West Norfolf course from the mainland

The sea sweeps in and cuts off the Royal West Norfolk course from the mainland

Gavin Playford is the head greenkeeper at the club. He joined straight from school back in 1986 and 28 years later is responsible for a team of five full time greenkeepers including a greenkeeper/mechanic. He runs a mixed fleet of turf maintenance machinery preferring to purchase the equipment that does the job for him on his course. He explains what happened on that fateful day.

“The tidal flooding on December 5 last winter left £1 million damage in its wake including extensive damage at the clubhouse; the kitchen, Men’s changing room and Pro Shop were all seriously affected, but the real damage was done at our maintenance facility; we literally lost our entire fleet, worth in excess of £600,000.

“Initially, we didn’t know which way to turn, but as the news broke, the response from the industry in the area was fantastic. Everyone rallied around for us and the three major manufacturers, through their local dealers, were very supportive. With their support of loan equipment we were up and running very quickly after such a catastrophic event.

“The insurance company were also very professional and when I told them we had over five feet of water in the maintenance shed, they sent a surveyor out quickly and approved a list of replacement machinery at the double.

“We already had the hybrid Jacobsen Eclipse 322 in our planned capital expenditure schedule following a three-day demo we had about 18 months ago, but with the approval of the insurers we were able to get it as part of the replacement package.

RWN 064

Gavin Playford with his Jacobsen Eclipse 322

“I really like the machine’s ability to change the frequency of cut. We have found that the 2.4 setting (416 cuts per metre) is right for us. In my opinion, the finish is as good as double cutting but in a single pass. It’s very easy to work on; the swing out centre unit is a very good feature and the maintenance information on the display screen leaves you in no doubt about what servicing needs to be done, and when. Yes, a really well thought through piece of design.”

Hunstanton 101Hunstanton Golf Club have been a loyal customer of local Ransomes Jacobsen dealer Bartram Mowers for decades. Back in May this year they requested a demonstration of the Jacobsen Eclipse 322 and they were so impressed with its performance that they brought forward the purchase by a year!

Peter Read has been at the club 28 years and became head greenkeeper three years ago. He heads a team of just six, so there’s always a job to do around the course. In his own words, this is what happened.

“I called Bartram Mowers back in early May and asked for a demonstration of the Eclipse. They got it to me quickly and left it with us for a week, which was fortunate as it was in the run up to a major member and guest competition, which we host every year to raise funds for the local Royal National Lifeboat Institution – RNLI*

Hunstanton 033

After mowing with the Eclipse 322 even a light roll made no difference

“We were so impressed by its performance that, with the backing of the Greens Committee, we brought funding forward and purchased it a year ahead of our planned replacement programme. We took delivery in the first week of July 2014.

“In that week leading up to the RNLI fundraising event, the machine literally sold itself to us! We had the unit with 15-blade cutting cylinders and it made such a difference to the quality of the greens in just the five days that we used it.

“Our normal stimp speed is between 9 feet and 9.5 feet, but mowing at the same height of 4.25 mm, with an FOC setting of 2.4, we were getting a consistent 10.5 feet. Even when we gave the greens a light roll it made no appreciable difference. We’ve always used Jacobsen Greens King IV ride on mowers, since they were introduced some 30 years ago, so it has taken something really special for us to change.”

Gordon irvine.00Golf course consultant Gordon Irvine was contacted by the club some four years ago because the intensive mowing to produce fast greens was causing significant issues to their major asset. A combination of his experience of links courses, a change in cultural practices and the efforts of the greenkeeping team have resulted in their recovery, which has been further enhanced by the Eclipse 322.

“Many years ago, from the early 1980s through to 2000, we regularly mowed at 2 mm,” Peter Read added. “We began raising the height of cut around 10 years ago and now, with the Eclipse at 4.25 mm, we’re more than double the height, but still reasonably quick. Consistency of cut across all 18 greens, significant fuel reductions and a swing out centre unit for easy maintenance are all great features.”

*RNLI – A UK charity of volunteers who provide lifesaving services around the coast of the UK.

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Golf in the Brandenburg forest

logo_motzen 300dpiBerliner Golf and Country Club Motzener See e. V. celebrated its 20th anniversary in June 2013, which coincided with the opening of a new 9-hole loop created out of virgin Brandenburg forest. Our Public Relations Manager, Peter Driver, visited the club earlier this year to speak to long serving head greenkeeper Bodo Bredow about the 27-hole golf complex situated just 30 minutes from the centre of Berlin.

Golf in the Brandenburg forest, just 30 minutes from central Berlin

The course was designed by Kurt Rossknecht, one of Germany’s most prolific golf course architects with more than 40 courses to his name constructed across Austria, Germany, Spain and Switzerland. His portfolio includes the three 18-hole courses at Arabella Golf on the island of Mallorca and five 18-hole, three 9-hole and two 6-hole courses at Golf Resort Bad Griesbach in Bavaria.

Construction work began in May 1991 with the 9-hole
executive course open for play in Berliner ClubhausAugust 1992. The 18-hole championship course opened three months later and the official opening took place in the newly completed clubhouse in June 1993. It has hosted four German Masters events, in 1994 and 1995, when the competition was sponsored by Mercedes and in 1996 and 1997, when Linde were the sponsors. Today the club boasts 850 members of which 60 are juniors.

Berliner Golf and Country Club is operated by the CCA group. CCA, through its global club network ‘International Associate Clubs’, has an involvement with 250 exclusive clubs worldwide. CCA properties include city business clubs, city athletic clubs, country clubs, golf and country clubs, health spas and resort clubs.

Founded in 1982 by Dieter R. Klostermann, CCA’s current Chairman and CEO, the group has sold more than 70,000 club memberships and has raised over US$800 million in membership funds and over US$600 million in real estate sale. It operates in 15 countries including England, where it owns the prestigious London Capital Club and Brocket Hall, an exclusive 36-hole private golf club and conference centre in addition to the acclaimed Auberge du Lac restaurant.

Bodo Bredow 160The head greenkeeper and his course
Bodo Bredow joined Berliner Golf and Country Club during the grow-in period in 1992 and was promoted to head greenkeeper in 1996. He leads a team of 14 including a mechanic during the golfing season, which reduces to four in the winter months.

The course sits within a 160 hectare grass and forested estate with 60 hectares of managed turf plus 30 hectares of rough ground. The greens are sown with Penncross agrostis with the tees and fairways a mix of fescue and agrostis.

Motzen_Panorama8With the opening of the new 9 holes in 2013, the facility now consists of three 9-hole sections imaginatively titled A, B and C. Loop A consists entirely of old holes on the former 18-hole course; loop B utilises four holes on the old course and five new holes with loop C using four new holes and five old holes on the back nine of the old course. The new 9 holes have been created out of 45 hectares of virgin forest, with just 17 hectares devoted to golf course.

“We seeded the new holes in 2012 and opened in June 2013,” said Bodo “but I accept that it was a little too early. We closed during the mild spring of 2014 to help the density of grass cover and that has worked for us.

Berliner wood piles 130New nine-hole loop
“When we were planning the new holes I worked very closely with Kurt Rossknecht and I had professional input into the finally accepted design. The greens have enough light due to the extensive removal and thinning of trees in areas related to the passage of the sun. This has removed any possibly agronomic issues associated with shade.

“Brandenburg is the most forested area of Germany and tree removal was a major part of the construction process. On average we removed 10,000 trees per hectare; that’s 170,000 in total. We sold the timber and this was re-invested in the construction of the golf course. We have no rough in this forest loop, the trees form the natural boundary to the fairways.”

Berliner Hole C4 134I asked Bodo what his favourite hole on the course was and his reply came instantly. “C4 is my favourite,” he said, “because it goes from the highest to lowest point in the forest; it looks narrow but is deceptively wide as you get closer. We have strategically placed bunkers, which also come into play and the green is guarded by a large pond.”

I noticed an electric fence running around the perimeter and asked if that was to keep animals off the course. “Yes,” said Bodo, “the entire perimeter is fenced off to protect from the intrusion by wild boar and deer; the boar are very resourceful and sometimes break through the fence causing extensive damage.”

Berliner lake 139Extensive water features
The original flat landscape had to be transformed back in 1992 to create the character of an inland links.  This was achieved through the construction of a large feature lake, a water course running through the facility and linking several large ponds and the sowing of wild flower meadows. In all, water is pumped 2.5 km to the far side before cascading around the course through streams and small lakes.

The links style has been compromised over the years, with various club managers having had their input and trees have been planted which have altered the character of the course. With the rough growing to 700mm in high summer, it plays entirely differently from spring to autumn. The typical northern European climate is mainly mild; but in winter frosts can go down -25°C.

DCIM100GOPROThe course has irrigation on all greens, tees and fairways with water coming from an on-site bore hole. The large feature lake mentioned earlier comes into play on three holes of loop C; on the first, which is virtually an island green, the 7th and on the final hole of this loop, hole 9. Divers recover in excess of 80,000 lost golf balls a year from the water hazards around the course

Turf maintenance fleet
Ransomes Jacobsen equipment forms the majority of the turf maintenance machinery used by Bodo and his team and has been purchased from Golf Tech, based in Munster.

Berliner Fleet 152He currently has four Jacobsen PGM 22 pedestrian greens mowers, an Eclipse 322 diesel-electric hybrid greens mower with another on order, two LF 570 light fairway mowers and one of its predecessors, the LF 3800. For the semi-rough he uses an AR 522 and a R311T for the higher rough areas. Tees and surrounds are maintained with a Tri-King and he has five utility vehicles, two Cushman Haulers, two E-Z-GO MPTs and a new Cushman Turf Truckster.

Berliner Fleet 149Bodo also has the first Jacobsen AR722 to be sold into Germany; this new contour rotary mower, which was launched into Europe in March this year, features seven 56 cm rotary cutting decks and a 3.2 metre cutting width. Bodo first saw the mower when it was previewed at Demopark last year, before testing it here and eventually purchasing the machine.

Most of the equipment was delivered in autumn 2013 and commenting on his decision to purchase the Eclipse 322, he said, “This is the latest technology for mowing greens; because it uses electric power there is no hydraulic system, so no chance of an oil spill. It’s also much quieter than a standard diesel powered hydraulic mower, which is good because we have a restriction on our mowing times at weekends due to the proximity of local housing and cannot begin maintenance before 8.00 am.

Eclipse 322-7432A-small“The other significant benefit is the ability to change the number of cuts per metre that the machine can do. Once this is programmed into the mower it cuts every green exactly the same, ensuring consistency of the putting surfaces for our members and visitors. At present we have set this to match the frequency of cut (FOC) of our Toro greens mower, but when our second Eclipse is delivered we’ll see what the optimum FOC is and set both Eclipses to the same setting.

“I’m also considering purchasing tees cutting units for both machines; I could then change the FOC to accommodate the reduced number of blades on the tees cylinders and it will give me more flexibility if I lost the use of the Tri-King for some reason. That’s another reason why I made the decision to purchase the Eclipse.”

Completing the machinery fleet is a Turfco top dresser and from Smithco a bunker rake, Tournament Ultra greens roller and a Spray Star 2000 with GPS for highly accurate fertiliser and chemical distribution. The club also operates 12 golf cars; a mix of E-Z-GO RXVs and TXTs.

Berliner 23 year old Cushman 116And finally
As I was saying farewell to Bodo and his team, I noticed what looked like a very ancient Cushman Turf Truckster in the maintenance facility. Quickly extracting my camera from its bag, I took a couple of photos. It was built in 1991, making it 23 years old and had over 10,000 hours on the clock.

“Excellent multi-purpose machine,” said Bodo, “Great turning circle with only one wheel at front and it’s still running!”

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