From the Ground Up

MLS Groundskeeper starts from scratch in Orlando

Orlando City Soccer Club At-A-Glance

Year Founded: 2010
Head Groundskeeper: Matt Bruderek
Turf: Tifway 419 Bermuda
Equipment: Jacobsen® LF550 large-area reel mower, Cushman Turf-Truckster utility vehicle, Cushman SprayTek DS-300 sprayer
Matt Bruderek, Head Groundskeeper for Orlando City Soccer Club.

Matt Bruderek, Head Groundskeeper for Orlando City Soccer Club.

For proof of soccer’s continued growth in the U.S., sport aficionados need to look no further than the success of Major League Soccer’s bright new expansion team, the Orlando City Soccer Club. The club is playing their inaugural year home games in the famed Citrus Bowl while a massive new stadium is completed in downtown Orlando.

The team and its lion-crested purple imagery, led by international superstar Kaká, has quickly become the hottest ticket in Central Florida. The team has already set U.S. soccer attendance records, with over 60,000 fans attending the first home match against fellow expansion team New York City FC. The game was televised in over 100 countries. The team currently ranks #2 in MLS attendance.

Team President Phil Rawlins founded the team in 2010 in Austin, Texas, where the fledgling team won a championship in the United Soccer League. A few years later, Rawlins partnered with Brazilian businessman Flavio Augusto da Silva, joined MLS and moved the team to Orlando Florida.

When the team arrived in Orlando, STMA member Matt Bruderek was working as a grounds crew assistant at the University of Central Florida, maintaining fields for the school’s baseball, football and soccer teams.

“When I first saw the job opening at Orlando City, I was reluctant to apply because I didn’t even think they would consider me,” said Bruderek.

But the young field manager got the nod and quickly found himself in Orlando, starting a turfgrass program from scratch.

“When I started in July of 2014, we had no equipment, facilities or fields,” recalls Bruderek. “It was perfect actually because I was able to sit down and plan everything that I wanted to do before practices and games started.”

By August, the team secured two practice fields and a building just outside of Orlando in Seminole County. Bruderek’s immediate responsibility was tending to the slate of events the facility had already scheduled.

Matt Bruderek maintains these two practice fields outside of Orlando in Seminole County. He will also be responsible for managing the field at the club’s new stadium in downtown Orlando, which is currently under construction. The top photo shows what Bruderek started with in August of 2014. The bottom photo was taken just seven months later in the spring of 2015.

Matt Bruderek maintains these two practice fields outside of Orlando in Seminole County. He will also be responsible for managing the field at the club’s new stadium in downtown Orlando, which is currently under construction. The top photo shows what Bruderek started with in August of 2014. The bottom photo was taken just seven months later in the spring of 2015.

“As I continued to plan for Orlando City during the fall, we had recreation league games out here, the Canadian men’s national team, and two days after Christmas we hosted a three-day soccer tournament that had 15 games on each field. After that, we had just one month until Orlando City’s first practice. During that first fall, I wasn’t able to do much but spray weeds, overseed and use a recycle dresser machine, which pulls up the sand to topdress the surface.”

Bruderek used just 200 lbs. per acre with the ryegrass, half of what a field manager would normally use.

“At the time, the Bermuda was just not healthy enough to put a thick layer of ryegrass on top of it,” said Bruderek. “It was a good decision because the Bermuda is popping now and growing like crazy. The coaches want the grass as low as possible, so I’ve been nudging it down, little by little. I want to get it to ½ inch, but I’m not rushing it.”

“When the team arrived for their first practice in January of this year, it was awesome,” said Bruderek. “From the very beginning, they were supportive of me and noticed even the small improvements that had started to take shape in the grass. If I ask them to stay off a certain part of the field, they comply with no issues. They have a complete understanding of what we’re trying to do out here, which is incredibly helpful.”

Bruderek also got to know the team better, including its most well-known player.

“I had heard a lot about Kaká and what a great player he is. Even at 33 years of age, he is still the most skilled player on the field at any given time,” said Bruderek. “But he is also an incredibly down-to-earth guy who will go out of his way for his fans. His fans will show up here at the practice facility and he always finds time to sign autographs and talk to them. He’s a big reason that this team took off so fast in such a short period of time.”

Bruderek uses a small fleet of Jacobsen equipment to maintain his practice fields.

Matt Bruderek maintains his fields with a Jacobsen LF550 large-area reel mower.

Matt Bruderek maintains his fields with a Jacobsen LF550 large-area reel mower.

“Just getting good quality equipment out here made all the difference,” said Bruderek. “I absolutely love the quality-of-cut I get from the LF550 large-area reel mower. What I love even more is how easy it is to change the height-of-cut, which I can easily do in less than ten minutes without a lift. That’s so critical when it’s just me out here.”

While continuing to improve his practice fields, Bruderek is also working closely with the team on the new downtown stadium. The most pressing item now is sod selection.

“Right now, I’m between Tifway 419 bermudagrass and Celebration bermudagrass. I’ve heard a lot of great things about Celebration’s wear, shade and sun tolerance plus its darker color,” said Bruderek. “But the new stadium planners did extensive sun testing through computer simulation and we know the grass will get good hours of sun every day.”

The new stadium, which will seat between 25-28 thousand fans, is planned to open in the summer of 2016.

As the downtown stadium takes shape this summer, Bruderek will continue to enhance his practice fields, verticutting, topdressing and aerifying as much as he can.

“Once the new stadium is done, I’ll be running back and forth quite a bit and I hope to have some help by that time,” he says. “But until then, my plan is to get these fields in top shape for the team.”

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Jacobsen and the Rio Olympic Golf Course

April 2014-028It’s the premier sporting occasion on the planet, watched by a global TV audience estimated at over 3.6 billion, and Jacobsen products will play their part as golf returns to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro next year, after a 112 year absence.

The golf course has been constructed in Barra da Tijuca, a district of Rio de Janeiro that contains the largest number of Olympic Games venues and is located 7 kilometres from the Athlete’s Village.

Gil HanseGil Hanse and his team won the battle to design the course and were awarded the contract following submissions from seven other high profile entries – Gary Player Design, Greg Norman Golf Course Design, Hawtree Ltd, Nicklaus Design, Renaissance Golf Design, Robert Trent Jones II and Thomson Perrett. Hanse was voted ‘Architect of the Year’ by Golf Magazine in 2009, the same year that one of his designs, Castle Stuart in Scotland, won the accolade of ‘Best New International Course’.

After a delay due to a customs-related issue with the irrigation system, construction began towards the end of 2013. Based on a typical layout that would be found in Australia’s sand belt around the Melbourne area, the course features natural vegetation, extensive bunkers, a lagoon and sandy rough ground lining the fairways.

April 2015-019

Initial turfing in May 2014

The mix of grass species is an interesting one with Zeon Zoysia used extensively on tees and fairways, while SeaDwarf Seaside Paspalum is used on the greens. Both species are drought tolerant and the Paspalum is also saltwater tolerant, which is important as the quality of the irrigation water will be variable.

None of the grass on the course has been grown ‘in situ’ from seed; all the grass cover has been laid as turf or sprigs. Marcello Matte is the owner of Green Grass Brazil, who is responsible for producing the grass that has been used across the 35 hectare (85 acre) site. The Zeon Zoysia cultivar, explicitly for use on golf courses, has been developed by grass breeder David Douget of Bladerunner Farms in Texas, USA. The planting of the golf course began in May 2014, using three different approaches; the majority of the Zeon Zoysia areas – tees and fairways – were planted using large rolls of turf, but some areas were planted using oblong shaped turf sods. The SeaDwarf Seaside Paspalum used on the greens were all planted as sprigs. As well as being drought tolerant, Zeon Zoysia has low fertiliser requirements and grows in a dense mat, which helps with weed suppression.

Neil Cleverly (standing) with grass breeder David Douget as turfing begins

Neil Cleverly (standing) with grass breeder David Douget as turfing begins

Course Superintendent Neil Cleverly, International BIGGA Member and International Superintendent Member of the GCSAA, is the successful Englishman who landed one of the most sought-after jobs in the industry back in June 2013. With a portfolio that encompasses Europe, Asia and the USA, he is extremely experienced in the management of warm season grasses.

Commenting during a conversation with Golfdom magazine back in October 2014, Gil Hanse said,
“I didn’t meet him until after he was selected. He was interviewed at the GCSAA show in San Diego, which I was unable to attend. Jim Wagner from our company went down and was part of the team that interviewed him. By all accounts Neil did a great job, he’s got a ton of experience overseas, primarily with warm season grasses, which was a bonus.

“Although he doesn’t have experience with Zeon Zoysia, which is the primary grass on-site, he’s well equipped to deal with it and he has been a Godsend. During the early parts of construction it was basically me and a couple of guys who work with me down there. Working without a project manager and trying to make sense of it all was difficult, and then when Neil showed up he immediately took over as project manager.

April 2014 Construction - 1145“He got very involved in the earth moving and quickly demonstrated what he could bring to the project. He is not only a great turf manager, but also an excellent project manager from the construction standpoint. So he has been the rock of the construction part of the project.”

It was back in the spring of 2014 that Jacobsen was confirmed as the preferred supplier of the mowing equipment. Commenting, Alan Prickett, Managing Director of Ransomes Jacobsen in the UK said,
AP 074“One of the deciding factors was that we have a local distributor in Brazil. ProGolf has represented the Jacobsen brand in Brazil since 2012 as well as Ryan, Turfco and Smithco; three companies with whom we have excellent working relationships across the globe. ProGolf’s core business is golf course construction, and they are working as sub-contractors at the Olympic course.

ProGolf Logo2“It’s a tremendous accolade to be associated with the Rio Olympic golf course and, once again, we’re delighted to be involved with the Olympic Games as it continues a tradition for our business that goes back over many decades. This was a particularly important win for us, as it marks the return of golf as an Olympic sport after more than a century, and it’s sure to be one of the high-profile events at the Games.

“Our Regional Sales Manager, Frederico Santa-Barbara, has worked extremely diligently in both the run up to our appointment and in the 18 months since. He visits the course at least once a week to ensure that everything is progressing as it should, and we have ProGolf on course full time in their construction capacity.”

The first Jacobsen equipment arrived in May 2014

The first Jacobsen equipment arrived in June 2014

With turfing underway in May 2014, the initial delivery of 18 Jacobsen machines followed a month later. This consisted of three Eclipse2 walking greens mowers, two Eclipse 322 hybrid powered ride-on greens mowers, four Greens King walking mowers, one SLF1880 super light fairway mower, two LF3800 fairway mowers, three Turfcat out-front ride-on rotary mowers, two UK-built TR3 reel mowers for tees and surrounds and a GA30 pedestrian aerator.

“The Eclipse mowers are an important part of the package,” said Jacobsen’s Frederico Santa-Barbara. “Neil and his team consider them to be the best greens mowers on the market; they are the only mowers with total control over the number of cuts per metre and the reels on the walking versions can be used on the ride-on machine, providing great flexibility. The other key element is that there is absolutely no possibility of an oil spill on the greens, because these are hybrid machines and do not use hydraulic oil.”

April 2015-054By the time the first test event takes place early next year a total of 35 Jacobsen turf maintenance machines will be employed at the course. In the interim, Jacobsen’s Product Support Manager Andrew Echenique will be providing technical training for Neil Cleverly’s team and he will be part of a team of Jacobsen technicians who will be running the maintenance facility over the course of the event.

During the Games, the course will host two 60-competitor tournaments with the women’s event following the men’s competition over a two-week period. It will accommodate 2,500 spectators in grandstands with space for a further 17,500 around the course.

‘Legacy’ is an important word in Olympic circles and the Rio Olympic Golf Course is no different. The International Golf Federation (IGF), who successfully lobbied for golf’s return to the Games, will organise the two events and are responsible for ‘promoting a positive legacy from the Olympic Games.’

Post-Games the course will be the only 18-hole public facility in Rio de Janeiro and Brazil. The Clubhouse will become a multi-purpose venue used for public meetings and social engagements, while the driving range and golf academy will be used for golf practice, instruction and education.

Cerro 8795APerhaps the most important legacy will be the implementation of a youth development programme dedicated to providing young people of all backgrounds with opportunities to continue their education and develop their character through golf. Funding from the Brazilian Olympic Committee to the Confederation of Brazilian Golf will be used for junior golf initiatives around Brazil.

From an ecological and environmental perspective degraded land will be restored by the creation of green space with local access. The venue will be certified as environmentally sustainable by creating a watershed and providing attenuation, natural filtering and water treatment. The biodiversity of the area will be enhanced by managing the water run-off, thereby conserving the soil structure and restricting erosion. Improvements in the ecosystem will increase native plants and encouraging the local wildlife.

Finally, the return of golf has the potential for increased awareness and interest in the sport, not only in Brazil, but across the globe; increased accessibility to play due to the public nature of the 18-hole course and, eventually, increased participation in golf.

Peter DawsonAt the IGF Olympic Golf Forum during the 2015 PGA Merchandise Show, held in Orlando, FL in January, Peter Dawson, President of the International Golf Federation said,
“We began this project of bidding for golf to return to the programme of Olympic sports because so many small countries, small in golfing terms, really needed some help to grow the game …. The growth of the game is worldwide and the inclusion of golf in the Olympic Programme is the biggest ‘grow the game’ opportunity we had and that continues to be the case.”

The final word is left to Alan Prickett, Ransomes Jacobsen’s Managing Director who says,
“With just a year to go before the Opening Ceremony in Rio, everything now looks in place to ensure that golf’s return after a century’s absence, will have a positive influence on the game. From Jacobsen’s perspective we are delighted to be involved, in some small way, in this historic event.”

Jacobsen Eclipse 322 in action

Jacobsen Eclipse 322 in action

A green being cut with a Jacobsen Eclipse2

A green being cut with a Jacobsen Eclipse2

UK-built Jacobsen TR3 in action on the par 4 16th hole

UK-built Jacobsen TR3 on the par 4, 16th hole

October 2014 and Neil Cleverly cuts a fairway for the first time

October 2014 and Neil Cleverly cuts a fairway for the first time

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Jacobsen – winning on the links of Ireland (Part 2)

This is the second instalment of our Public Relations Manager, Peter Driver’s whistle-stop tour of Ireland, where he circumnavigated the country in less than five days, stopping off at some the most prestigious links golf courses along the way. You will see he visited Lahinch, Rosapenna and Portsalon before concluding his tour at Ballyliffin. Wherever he went he found the Jacobsen brand alive and well across the ‘Emerald Isle.’

Lahinch hole 3We begin where we left off last month and following a 230 kilometre drive from the Ring of Kerry, we arrived at Lahinch Golf Club on the coast of County Clare. Lahinch has had outstanding designers from its inception through to modern times; Old Tom Morris, Alister MacKenzie and Martin Hawtree.

Lahinch 144Today, the custodian of the Old Course is head greenkeeper, Brian McDonagh, who has been at the club for 15 years and has been the head man since 2011. He has a team of seven permanent staff on the Old Course, supplement by a further six seasonals between April and October.

Lahinch 127“We run a Jacobsen AR522, which replaced the former model the AR250,” he said. It has very good traction, which is great on our slopes and gives a beautiful finish. We cut our aprons and surrounds at 7.5 mm with a GP400 three-wheel drive. The traction again from this unit is just what we need for a links course. We are also running the tried and tested Greens King IV with turf groomers; to my mind there’s no better grooming unit on the market.”

We still had another 240 kilometres to travel, so shortly after 2.00 pm we set off in north-easterly direction heading for our overnight stop at Enniskillen, back in Northern Ireland, arriving at 6.20 pm. Dinner and an early night followed as we had an early start again in the morning.

Rosapenna aerialWe checked out of the hotel at 7.30 am and were on the road shortly afterwards heading to the northern coast of County Donegal and Rosapenna Hotel and Golf Resort, situated among the sand dunes of the spectacular Sheephaven Bay.

Arriving at 9.45 am the first person we met was Frank Casey Junior, the Director of Golf. Andy Campbell confirmed that his fleet of E-Z-GO RXV golf cars were behaving well and then it was outside to find Paul Travers, the Links Superintendent.

Rosapenna 160Paul was down by the access road with his team of seven full-time employees and a contractor putting in a main drainage line to alleviate some local flooding issues. He joined the resort back in 2008 and manages a team of 12 staff which includes five part-timers in the summer months. Prior to this he was assistant course manager at Lough Erne during the construction and grow-in phases from 2005 until moving to Rosapenna in 2008.

Commenting on the Eclipse 322 he said,
“This is by far the best greens mower on the market today; fuel economy is excellent and there’s absolutely no danger of the greenkeepers worst nightmare, an hydraulic oil leak on the green! To be able to control the frequency of cut is a huge advance and we’ve been experimenting with it to find the optimum for the greens here.

Rosapenna 090“We have some steep dunes and it copes admirably with any slopes; also the automatic braking system is unique to this mower. It’s comfortable, well thought out, the controls are easily accessible from the control arm and the swing-out centre unit makes routine adjustments quick and easy. Add the excellent level of service we receive from Broderick’s, our local dealer, and we have a package that complements the golfing experience here at Rosapenna.”

Wild Atlantic WayTravelling in this part of northern Donegal is a delight; most of it following the Wild Atlantic Way, a tourist route that hugs the coastline and takes in the rugged cliffs of Malin Head, Fanad Head and the Slieve League.

Portsalon 128Our next port of call was Portsalon Golf Club, situated on the shore of the scenic Lough Swilly and its world-renowned beach, which was deemed to be the second most beautiful beach in the world by the UK’s Observer newspaper.

Johnny Shields, Course Superintendent at Portsalon Golf Club, uses a Jacobsen GP400 ride-on triplex mower as his preferred option for maintaining the tees and approaches at the renowned golfing venue, currently ranked 23rd in the Golf Digest Ireland 100 top courses for 2015.

He manages a small team of three staff, who do a superb job of maintaining the 7,000 yard course, set among the sand dunes along Ballymastocker Bay with the Inishowen Hills beyond.

Kevin Broderick (left) with Johnny Shields sitting on the GP400

Kevin Broderick (left) with Johnny Shields sitting on the GP400

Commenting on the GP400 he said,
“I was extremely sceptical when Kevin Broderick Ltd, my local Ransomes Jacobsen dealer, turned up with a mower that had slick tyres. I was convinced there was no way that it would climb the slopes or cover the ground on my course. However, I underestimated the efficiency of its three-wheel drive capability and I have to admit it’s our ‘go anywhere’ machine; there’s nowhere on the maintained areas, tee to green, that it cannot reach. I also like the easy access to the machine for daily checks and maintenance, especially the integrated fuel and hydraulic tank and the swing-out centre unit; they’re clever designs and help when performing routine maintenance tasks.”

We still had a couple of calls to make and get to our hotel in Ballymena, Northern Ireland some 200 kilometres away, so we said goodbye to Johnny and drove southeast to Letterkenny where we took the N13 towards Buncrana and a courtesy visit to North West Golf Club. Damian Docherty, the Links Superintendent, is very interested in purchasing an Eclipse 322 and Andy was delighted to provide him with anecdotes from our four-day road trip.

Ballyliffin 0169We were soon back on the road and heading to Ireland’s most northerly golf club, located off Tullagh Point on the Atlantic edge of the Inishowen peninsula. Ballyliffin Golf Club was founded in 1947 and is a 36-hole mecca for the links golfer. Originally an 18-hole facility, the Glashedy Links was opened in 1995 to take the pressure off the overplayed Old Links.

Ballyliffin 0177Scotsman Andy Robertson is the experienced Links Superintendent and began his career at Thurso Golf Club in Caithness, where he spent five years learning his trade. In 1992 he headed south to Sunningdale in England, where he spent six years working on the New course, before successfully applying for the job at Ballyliffin in 1998.

Andy heads a team of nine greenkeepers and a dedicated mechanic, who maintain the two courses. It’s a big job, so every man and every item of equipment has to perform to a maximum to ensure the golfing experience for the members and visitors.

Ballyliffin 0173He is another convert to the Eclipse 322 and loves the quality of cut from the diesel-electric hybrid.
“It’s quiet, frugal on fuel and therefore very cost-effective in terms of running costs,” he says. “It has been designed around the operator and produces a very clean finish. We initially tried different FOC settings, before settling on one that’s right for our greens. I have a love of links golf and I certainly have an affection for this mower!”

With the light fading fast, we bade farewell to Andy and headed via Derry/Londonderry back into Northern Ireland where we began our journey just four days ago. Our final destination for today was the Galgorm Resort and Spa, where we would overnight before returning to Belfast and our respective flights and ferries home.

The next morning, and our final few hours in Ireland involved a meeting at Galgorm Castle Golf Club to discuss our continuing support for the Northern Ireland Open, before heading back to Belfast International airport and my return flight to London Stansted.

The two hour wait for my flight gave me the ideal opportunity to reflect on this whirlwind visit. We visited 10 golf clubs in less than five days, eight of which were some of the most prestigious links courses in Ireland. We circumnavigated Ireland and travelled an incredible 1,440 kilometres (895 miles), met some lovely people but, most of all, came away convinced that the Jacobsen brand is flourishing on the links courses of the Emerald Isle.

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Jacobsen – winning on the links of Ireland (Part 1)

Back in November last year Peter Driver, our Public Relations Manager, went on a whistle-stop tour of Ireland and circumnavigated the country in less than five days, stopping off at some the most prestigious links golf courses along the way. The following is the first in a two-part account of his visit, where he found the Jacobsen brand alive and well across the ‘Emerald Isle.’

RCD 042I left home at 5.45 am on a cold, late November morning and arrived at London’s Stansted airport in good time for my 7.55 am flight to Belfast. My colleague, Andy Campbell, Jacobsen’s Regional Sales Manager for Scotland and Ireland, picked me up at Belfast’s  International Airport and we drove straight to The Royal County Down Golf Club, ranked the No. 1 golf course in Ireland in 2015 by Golf Digest Ireland magazine.

Located in the Murlough Nature Reserve, the 36 holes of classic links stretches along the shores of Dundrum Bay, with the magnificent Mountains of Mourne offering a stunning backdrop to a round of golf.

RCD 026Links Manager Eamonn Crawford is the man with the huge responsibility for maintaining the courses and upholding the standards that have ensured it remains one of the most prestigious venues in world golf. He has a permanent staff of 11, supplemented by eight temporary greenkeepers in summer and three dedicated divoters.

This year the number of staff will increase significantly when numerous volunteers arrive in May when the Club hosts the Irish Open. The world class, star-studded field for this year’s event includes tournament host and World number one Rory McIlroy, his compatriots Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell, defending champion Mikko Ilonen, former World number one Lee Westwood, four-time Major-winner Ernie Els and Ryder Cup talisman, Sergio Garcia.

Back in 2013, Eamonn purchased a Jacobsen Eclipse 322 and this was the first time I’d met up with him since the machine was installed.

“It’s a great machine,” he said, “The quality of cut is second to none. Now in its second season it has made a significant difference to the greens on our no. 2 course, the Annesley Links.

RCD 032“One of the main reasons I purchased the Eclipse was for its adjustable clip rate; I wanted to have the facility to change the clip rate throughout the seasons, to suit the growing conditions at any given time. It’s the only ride-on greens mower that allows me to do this and it has been superb.”

Stephen Brady, a member of the greenkeeping team added,
“The improvement in fuel economy is unbelievable; the smaller diesel engine uses much less fuel. In a working week, we hardly ever need to fill it up!

Eamonn also purchased Jacobsen’s latest lightweight fairway mower, the Jacobsen LF550, and has been equally delighted with its performance. So much so, that he has ordered a further three machines, initially to help with the preparations for the Irish Open and for the long-term benefit of both courses.

Good-byes said and it was back into Andy’s truck for the two-hour journey south to The Royal Dublin Golf Club, situated on the shores of Bull island, where we met Paddy Teeling, the Links Superintendent.

Royal Dublin 049Paddy has worked at Royal Dublin for 24 years and is responsible for a team of seven full-time staff and one part-timer. In 2013 he purchased his first Jacobsen GP400 and was so impressed that he purchased a second for the 2014 season.

“As with all purchasing decisions, quality of cut is a huge factor. We arranged for demonstrations by all three major manufacturers and the GP400 ticked all the boxes immediately,” he said. “However, we have many severe undulations on our greens surrounds and approaches and I wanted proof that it could cope with these, as well as ensuring that the cutting units followed the humps and hillocks.  Our local dealer Broderick’s brought along the three-wheel drive version with 11-blade reels and, even though it has slick tyres, it coped admirably.

“The final factor was serviceability; the integrated fuel and hydraulic tank lift up to give excellent access to the engine compartment and the swing-out centre unit is a great innovation, giving really good access for servicing and routine maintenance.”

I’ve never been able to persuade Paddy to be in a photograph and this time was no exception, so his first assistant Gerrard Rowlands and mechanic Donal Mulvey stepped up to the plate and volunteered to be in the picture.

GCSAI 057With the light fading we said our farewells and headed off to our hotel for a quiet night before an early start the following morning, where we were scheduled to attend the Golf Course Superintendents’ Association of Ireland Annual National Education Day at Croke Park.

GCSAI 058The National Stadium of the GAA is a wonderful venue and the 230 registered delegates were treated to a couple of excellent presentations. The first by Steve Chappell, Head Greenkeeper at the PGA Centenary course who provided a fascinating insight into his preparations for, and aftermath of, The Ryder Cup. The second presentation was on the subject of Managing a Premier League Ground and Dougie Robertson, Head Groundsman at West Ham United provided an entertaining look behind the scenes.

Portmarnock 069Halfway through Dougie’s presentation I took a call to say that Gary Johnstone, the Links Manager at Portmarnock Golf Club, about 10 miles northeast of the city centre, was available to talk to me. Twenty minutes later I was on the course chatting to him about his Eclipse mowers; he has two hybrid ride on Eclipse 322s and five Eclipse2 walking greens mowers.

“I purchased two Jacobsen Eclipse 322 diesel-electric hybrid greens mowers back in 2010 and they haven’t missed a beat,” he said. “Both have completed over 800 hours of work and their fuel economy is superb, using just 1.5 litres of diesel for every 18 holes. I also have five Jacobsen Eclipse2 walkers, which we use between March and September; the technology’s the same, the quality of cut is outstanding, they give us more flexibility and I would recommend them to anyone.”

Gary has a mix of greens, some old and some recently refurbished with each type maintained differently. This is only possible due to the technology inherent in the Eclipse mowers.

“Without doubt, these Eclipse machines are more versatile than any other mower on the market today and they are the only machines that allow me to manage each green in an individual way,” he added.

Thanking him for his time, I headed back to Croke Park to catch the end of the Education Day, and then jumping in a taxi with Andy Campbell to return to the hotel, collect his truck and begin the 305 kilometre, four hour journey southwest to Killarney.

We arrived at our hotel at 8.45 pm, had a quick shower, a change of clothes and then went out for a meal in a local bar, which featured an excellent local band. The end of a long, but rewarding day.

Waterville 073An early start Wednesday morning saw us on the road at 7.15 am heading south to Waterville on the Ring of Kerry. We had an appointment to see an old friend Mike Murphy, the respected superintendent at Waterville Links.

Waterville 107We arrived at 8.30 am and were greeted by Mike outside the impressive clubhouse. A short drive and we were in his modern and well equipped maintenance facility, discreetly hidden in the middle of the course by mountainous sand dunes. Like Gary Johnstone at Portmarnock, Mike has had his Eclipse 322 for four years.

“Where do you start when talking about this mower? I suppose the main reason for purchasing the Eclipse is its lack of hydraulics, so zero chance of an hydraulic oil spill on the greens. We’re also seeing massive fuel savings; I’m using two and a half to three litres of diesel to cut 18 greens, instead of 12 to 13 litres of petrol with our previous Toro triple.

Waterville 098“We specified our machine with solid front rollers and Jacobsen’s new 15-blade reels and they are providing a superb finish on our bent and fescue-dominant greens. As far as I’m concerned the more blades the better when cutting fescues! I can dial in the mowing speed, transport speed and, best of all, the frequency of cut – the number of cuts per metre I want on all greens.

“Once set, these variables are locked in, so every green is cut to exactly the same specification; you just can’t do this with any other ride-on greens triple. In the summer I change to grooved rollers and we are consistently stimping 10 feet at 5mm height of cut.

“Originally, as we moved into autumn I raised it to 6mm, but now I just change the rollers. I also specified the brushes that sit between the front roller and the reel. This is excellent in my fescue bent mix as it stands the grass up for an even better cut!”

With a 230 kilometre drive ahead of us we said goodbye to Mike and headed back to Killarney heading for the Atlantic coast of County Clare. We’d had an interesting start to our around Ireland adventure, meeting satisfied customers using a selection of Jacobsen mowers that seem to be particularly suited to links courses.

Our journey continues up the west coast to Co. Donegal and then back into Northern Ireland, where we’ll meet some more end-users who are convinced that Jacobsen equipment works for them in their environments.

To be continued next month ……

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Lost & Found

Lost Key Golf Club At-A-Glance

Year Opened: 1997
Location: Pensacola, Florida
Superintendent: Ramsey Prescott, Class A Superintendent
Turf: Wall-to-wall SeaDwarf™ Seashore Paspalum
Equipment: Jacobsen® Greens King IV riding greens mowers (5); Jacobsen LF570 fairway mowers (2); Jacobsen AR-5 contour rotary mower (1)
Lost Key Golf Club Superintendent Ramsey Prescott (right) and Equipment Manager Stan Kocel (left).

Lost Key Golf Club Superintendent Ramsey Prescott (right) and Equipment Manager Stan Kocel (left).

Success in seeking a superintendent position requires both personal
commitment and professional preparation. More important, it requires a dedication to improving golf course conditions and helping all staff achieve at their highest level. This was one area Ramsey Prescott was confident in speaking of when he was hired at Lost Key Golf Club in 2011.

The course, now part of a master planned WCI Community, was in need of assistance. When 2011 came to an end, it was recorded as one of the worst drought years in Perdido Key’s history.

“Our course was severely affected by the drought, which produced rainfall 18 inches below normal. Two entire holes were 85% lost from numerous irrigation problems and the drought stricken turf. Since then, we have made great strides in repairing and improving the overall irrigation system.”

Dubbed “Lost Ball” by the locals, Lost Key is a cunning Arnold Palmer design with tight fairways etched out of dense woodlands. The vegetation is so thick players nicknamed the course ‘Lost Ball’ because anything ten feet from the fairway was unfindable. Golfers will have their restraint tested. Oftentimes, the driver needs to stay in the bag.

The Reel Man - built by Equipment Manager Stan Kocel - greets you upon arriving at Lost Key's maintenance facility.

The Reel Man – built by Equipment Manager Stan Kocel – greets you upon arriving at Lost Key’s maintenance facility.

In his 20th year in the golf industry, Prescott can still vividly remember how his career teed off. Prescott and his brother lived in an apartment which was situated above the pro shop at a small local country club in Mississippi, where his brother was acting General Manager & Golf Course Superintendent.

“I would wake up to people teeing off right outside my window and I loved it,” said Prescott. Since being inspired by his brother’s passion for golf course management and gaining the experience working alongside him, Prescott knew his direction and what he was going to do. After receiving his turfgrass degree, Prescott moved around the Southeastern U.S. to gain as much experience as he could – whether it be private club, public courses, or resort.

“I knew getting the course back in shape would be a refreshing challenge,” said Prescott. “I started in August of 2011 and it wasn’t until the middle of 2012 that I felt comfortable with how the course was looking.”

In addition to dramatically improving the quality of the turf, Prescott and his crew made Lost Key much easier to play. With help from WCI Communities, Prescott’s team conducted extensive work on protecting the course’s wildlife habitats, helping preserve Lost Key’s designation as an Audubon Sanctuary (Florida’s first Silver Certified course). Prescott credits his Assistant Superintendent, Jason Bazan and their loyal crew for embracing the change and pulling together to get Lost Key back on track.

Lost Key Golf Club is wall-to-wall SeaDwarf Seashore Paspalum, which creates major challenges for Superintendent Ramsey Prescott and his Equipment Manager Stan Kocel.

Lost Key Golf Club is wall-to-wall SeaDwarf Seashore Paspalum, which creates major challenges for Superintendent Ramsey Prescott and his Equipment Manager Stan Kocel.

“Power is only power if you share it. If anything good happens on the course, I give credit to the crew,” said Prescott. “I’m here to train, teach and motivate them but ultimately they’re the ones doing the most work to get it done.”

He saves his highest praise for mechanic Stan Kocel.

“He’s one of the best mechanics I’ve come across in my twenty year career and is a critical part of our turnaround,” said Prescott. “Because of the aggressiveness of SeaDwarf Paspalum, we introduced a heavy topdressing program to combat the thatch build-up. With so much sand in our reels, Stan has to change out bedknives every day in the summer and grinds the reels once a week. Thanks to Stan, I don’t even have to think about equipment, I just focus on the agronomy.”

For Prescott and Kocel, maintaining wall-to-wall SeaDwarf Paspalum is a constant battle.

“I had never maintained Paspalum before Lost Key and I was amazed by how aggressive it is. In the summer, we are applying a large amount of growth regulator on the greens weekly,” said Prescott. “If I don’t use the growth regulator, we can cut the greens in the afternoon and get as much grass in the baskets as we do in the morning. It’s incredible.”

Lost Key Golf Club uses Jacobsen Greens King IV riding greens mowers and LF570 fairway mowers. Equipment Manager Stan Kocel changes bedknives every day in the summer because of the amount of sand on the course.

Lost Key Golf Club uses Jacobsen Greens King IV riding greens mowers and LF570 fairway mowers. Equipment Manager Stan Kocel changes bedknives every day in the summer because of the amount of sand on the course.

Prescott & Kocel’s mowing weapons of choice to manage the demanding Paspalum include Jacobsen Greens King IV riding greens mowers and LF570 fairway mowers. “In addition to the LF570’s cut quality, I also love how every hydraulic hose is the same length,” said Kocel.”

“We also love the quality-of-cut you get with the 15-blade reels on the Greens King IV,” said Prescott. “You just can’t beat it.”

Always looking for the next challenge, Prescott has continued course enhancements this spring, restoring cart paths, renovating bunkers and clearing wetlands. Prescott’s latest round of improvements will coincide with a major expansion to Lost Key Golf Club, starting in the summer of 2015. Prescott plans to play a major role in moving Lost Key Golf Club and the WCI Communities to the next level, which aligns perfectly with his management philosophy.

“It’s always good to hear that you’re not only a good person to work for, but a good person to work with. I will continue to be a hands-on leader who’s not afraid to work alongside my crew to make things better.”

“It’s always good to hear that you’re not only a good person to work for, but a good person to work with. I will continue to be a hands-on leader who’s not afraid to work alongside my crew to make things better.” ~Ramsey Prescott, Superintendent at Lost Key Golf Club

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Road trip through Germany to Hartl Resort, Bad Griesbach

Maximilian 30373552During a recent ‘road trip’ to Germany, beginning in Berlin and travelling the length of the country before ending up in Bavaria, Public Relations Manager Peter Driver, took the opportunity for a stopover at the Hartl Resort in Bad Griesbach.

Claiming to be the largest golf and thermal health and beauty spa resort in Europe, he ignored the health and beauty part to concentrate on its numerous golf courses.

The host for my German road trip was John Moore, a British-born, ex-RAF technician who is Managing Director of Ransomes Jacobsen’s distributor, Golf Tech, based in Munster, Westphalia in the north west of the country.

We began our tour near Berlin at Berliner Golf and Country Club Motzener See, then drove north towards Rostock on the Baltic coast to visit Winston Golf, before heading south to Bavaria, where en-route we stopped off at Hartl Resort Bad Griesbach.

For the past 40 years Alois Hartl has been the driving force behind the development of this impressive resort. After graduating from the grammar school at Ettal Benedictine monastery he studied law at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich and became a lawyer. In 2005 he joined forces with internationally renowned financier and investor
Dr Hans-Dieter Cleven and the Bad Griesbach project received the final impetus to become the world-class resort it is today.

The group owns three hotels at the resort, the five-star Maximillian and the two four-star Das Ludwig and Furstenhof hotels. All feature excellent cuisine, sport and fitness centres and first-class health and beauty facilities utilising the natural thermal springs which abound in the area.

Course map 274However, probably the main attraction is the range of golf on offer, unparalleled anywhere else in Europe. Five 18-hole championship courses, three 9-hole courses, and two 6-hole practice courses make up the golf offering at the Hartl Resort, integrated into the rolling landscape of Bavaria, 150 kilometres east of Munich. That’s a total of 129 holes of golf with three courses designed by Bernhard Langer and all constructed by Kurt Rossknecht, one of the most prolific
golf course architects in Germany.

Ranging from the almost mountainous to the completely flat, there is enough variety to test every level of golfing enthusiast. Add to this the Golfodrom, a practice facility to help all levels of golfer perfect their game and you have the perfect venue for a golfing sojourn.

Brunnweis 289AThe Courses Manager
Hermann Freudenstein is the Group Golf Courses Manager and has been with the owning company, Hartl Investments, since the beginning of the golf course development back in 1986. He previously worked for an architectural practice and has a technical engineering background.

Back then, the original golf facility had a clubhouse but no course and Hermann was asked by Herr Hartl if he could build it. With absolutely no practical experience, but with a modicum of confidence and his engineering background, he completed the project. Once construction was complete, the course needed to be maintained, so Hermann was given the job of Head greenkeeper because of his family farming background.

From these humble beginnings the resort has grown to become the largest in Europe and Hermann has grown his job responsibilities to match. With the initial course to manage, he studied at the Kempen training school for greenkeepers and obtained the qualifications to further his career.

Long standing association with E-Z-GO
Penning 337AThe resort has a long association with E-Z-GO, the US-based manufacturer of golf cars and small utility vehicles, which began at the German Open in Stuttgart some 24 years ago.  Through Bernhard Langer’s brother Ein, Hermann was introduced to the president of E-Z-GO and that resulted in a direct order being placed on Augusta for their first buggies. They arrived in a container
and were assembled Penning 330Aat the resort; the initial delivery featured petrol engines, but in 1996 the decision was taken to switch to electric.

The resort is located in four distinct areas: Brunnwies, Lederbach, Uttlau and Penning. Today they have 113 of the latest RXV golf cars, all electric and complete with an on-board battery filling system, golf bag covers and turf Brunnweis 294Asaver tyres. They are also road homologated as they need to use the local road system in the area to move around the courses.  29 are located at Brunnwies, 33 at Lederbach, 28 at Uttlau and 33 at Penning.

The Caddy Masters at all courses are responsible for the daily maintenance and fleet rotation and at the time of visit back in April 2014, the golf cars are hired out at Euro 30 per round, which is included in the green fee. The Brunnwies and Lederbach courses are particularly undulating and the golfers are encouraged to use the carts.

“We are very happy with the performance of these cars,” Hermann said, “the braking system that allows the vehicle to be safely stopped on a hill without touching the brake pedal is an excellent safety feature and there’s absolutely no roll-back when you eventually pull away again. It’s a clever system and we can alter the response of the cars for the type of course they are on. For example, we might restrict the speed of the cars on the hilly courses for safety reasons and allow faster speeds at the flatter ones.”

Brunnweis 283AThe golf courses
This initial conversation with Hermann took place in the clubhouse at the Brunnwies course, which is situated north west of the town of Bad Griesbach, and marked the beginning of our tour of this huge facility.

“Brunnwies was the first course at the resort to be designed by Germany’s former Ryder Cup captain Bernhard Langer,” he said. “It has been integrated into the rural surroundings here in the Rott Valley and has stunning views of the woodlands that are a feature of this area in Lower Bavaria.

Brunnweis 279A“It has many undulating greens that provide a real test for the golfers. The 11th hole is a typical example, where we can place the pin on any one of three different levels. The course also has extensive rough and although the ball can usually be found, it does encourage careful tee shots.”

As we were climbing into Hermann’s gleaming white Audi A5, he pointed out the 6-hole Chervò Junior Golf Course, which sits up the hill from the first fairway.

“This is exclusively reserved for children visiting the Golf Resort Bad Griesbach,” he said, “and is the ideal course for them to learn the rules of golf and golf etiquette, while having fun.

“You can also see the Junior Golf Park; it’s a 3,000 square metre facility where the youngsters can practice coordination, flexibility, balance, and reaction. It opened in 2013 and also caters for other sports such as football, hockey and various other ball games. During the recent Easter holiday we had nearly 100 children booked into the kinder golf school and the primary aim is to ensure they have fun.”

Uttlau 270AOur next stop as we drove closer to the town of Bad Griesbach, was the small village of Uttlau. The 18-hole course comprises of areas of flat land, some hills, some water surrounded by fruit trees and the village in the centre, making this a delightful championship course. The large greens make considerable Uttlau 277Ademands on a golfer’s putting talents, but getting to the greens means negotiating a combination of rising fairways and water hazards. The par 5, 18th hole takes you directly back into the village of Uttlau with fine views of this part of the region, which is known as the ‘Bavarian Tuscany’.

The Golfodrom
Golfdrom 302AAfter taking some reference photographs it was back into the car and a short drive south to the centrepiece of the golf resort, the Golfodrom, which opened in 1990 and provides the ideal environment for golfers of any level to train and hone their skills. This is a massive training facility and bigger than France’s Ilbarritz International Golf Training Centre in Barritz that I visited a couple of years ago.

Golfdrom 308A“We are very proud of this facility,” Hermann confided and then reeled off the statistics. “We have three 9-hole and two 6-hole golf courses, 210 tee areas, of which 109 are under cover and 21 are heated, two pitching and chipping areas, one 18-hole indoor putting green, and one 72-hole putting green outdoors. The Golfodrom provides a practice capacity for more than 500 people simultaneously.

Golfdrom 315A“Currently, we have more than 30 golf professional here at what has to be Europe’s largest golf school. In addition, the associated shop in the Golfodrom offer a large variety of golf clubs, bags, shoes, clothing and trollies. We also have an affiliated fitting centre, staffed by specialists, which ensures that the golfers can purchase the best fitting equipment.

Golfdrom 311A“In addition, we have the Hartl Resort Golf Academy, which provides professional coaching covering all aspects of the game including biomechanical and anatomical functionality, the psychology surrounding the game; everything that could enhance an individual’s playing skills.”

As Hermann stated, within the confines of the Golfodrom are three 9-hole golf courses. These courses are ideal for beginners who can perfect their game in a relaxed atmosphere before progressing to one of the championship courses. The Jagl and Pfeiffer courses comprise all par-3 holes, but the Engled also features par-4 options, with holes ranging in length from 75 to 195 meters.

Golfdrom 303AThe Pfeiffer is the shortest course and with a maximum length of 139 metres is primarily reserved for the professionals of the Hartl Resort Golf Academy and their students, who can practice their game on this golf course.

The Jagl is more undulating with more slopes, water hazards and bunkers coming into play. The shortest distance to master is 57 meters while the longest hole measures 195 metres and features a large water obstacle.

The third 9-hole golf course is Engled. It comprises six par-3 and three par-4 holes and is the most demanding course of the three short courses, and has therefore has been used for many years to enable golfers to obtain licence.

Not used to this system, I asked Hermann to clarify. “In Germany, golfers who have yet to achieve a handicap, have to obtain a playing licence and then take a test,” he explained. “This allows them to play and get a handicap certificate. Non-licenced golfers can play the 6-hole Hackerwiese course, as long as they are accompanied by a golfer with a playing licence.”

Lederbach 321AMore golf courses
Our next destination was the Axel Lange Generali Golf Course Lederbach, which offers an interesting and strenuous game of golf around a course that is almost mountainous in character and features no flat holes at all.

audi A5Now, I have driven or been driven around golf courses on golf cars, utility vehicles, even in the back of a trailer pulled by a tractor, but never have I been taken around a golf course in an Audi A5.

Hermann is the boss, so if he wants to show us his course from the comfort of his car, who are we to argue! We mainly kept to the sides of fairways and followed gaps in the rough where the mowers had travelled, but it was certainly a different experience.

Lederbach 322AThe landscape at Lederbach is typified by the final 160 metres of the 9th hole, which requires a climb up a gradient of an unbelievable 48% and, to no one’s surprise, Hermann advises that it’s nicknamed ‘Heart Attack Hill’. It is considered to be one of the ten hardest holes in Germany. With a course as undulating as this the reward is magnificent views over the surrounding countryside and on a clear day, the Alps can be seen in the far distance. With a sense of
irony Hermann said, “Buggies are recommended on this course!”

Dogs are allowed to accompany their owners on the Lederbach and Hermann provided a short anecdote about the unforeseen consequences of this policy.

Lederbach 325A“We had a lady golfer who owned a St Bernard and she regularly took the dog round with her. Being a large dog, lazy and overweight, she would put it the passenger seat of her buggy. On one particular occasion, while she was playing a tee shot, the dog stretched out, put its paw on the accelerator pedal which sent the buggy careering for 400 metres down the fairway, before coming to an abrupt stop in a greenside bunker!”

Penning 344AThe Penning Golf Centre is located just three kilometres south of the thermal spa facilities at the resort and is the location of the two sponsored championship courses, the Beckenbauer and the Mercedes-Benz.

Named after the legendary captain of the national football team, the Beckenbauer championship course has been expertly incorporated into the mountain meadow
landscape of the Rott Valley by Bernhard Langer.

Penning 329AIt is renowned for the quality of its hand mown greens and the perfect condition of the fairways, which is due to its two-tier irrigation system. Small stone bridges lead over the streams and ditches on the course, with stone walls separating the greens from the water. Although the course is completely level and easy to walk, it is considered by many to be the hardest at the resort.

Penning 343AConstructed in 2002 and making it the youngest of the championship courses, the Mercedes-Benz Golf Course sits adjacent to the Beckenbauer on the Penning estate. Similar to the Beckenbauer, Langer has integrated the course into the landscape of the Rott Valley and allowed the existing established trees to give the course its mature character and natural charm.
Featuring sharply undulating fairways, numerous water hazards and well-defended greens, it can be a stern test. “The 13th measures 175 yards to a green situated on a peninsula, which is a challenge,” said Hermann, “and the final hole has a difficult approach shot over water and will also provide a stiff test.”

The end of the visit
Returning to the joint clubhouse, I was able to get some more background from Hermann.

“I am responsible for a team of 55 staff,” he said.  “I have six head greenkeepers, three full-time mechanics and five dedicated construction workers for general maintenance and any hard landscaping duties.

Eclipse 322- no operator“As well as the E-Z-GO golf car fleet, I have some Jacobsen and Cushman equipment, which we purchased from Golf Tech including two hybrid Jacobsen Eclipse 322 diesel-electric mowers with three-wheel drive. I have been a customer for many years; we had the first LF100 fairway mower in Europe back in late 1980s, but the mower I’m most pleased with, is the LF3800 light fairway mower.

Jacobsen LF 570.14These have been excellent for us; lots of power, great output and great cutting units providing an exceptional cut. I am just replacing these with Jacobsen’s latest model, the LF570; it’s a natural progression and being able to change the speed of the reels to suit a particular course is a good innovation.

Penning 338“Oh, and one last thing; I would like to mention the excellent level of service we receive from John Moore and his team at Golf Tech. They are very professional in everything they do and are easy to do business with. I can see that they appreciate our business and they work very hard to ensure that they keep it.”

It was obvious during the visit that the two businesses have a mutual respect for each other and John was delighted to hear Hermann express his feelings. It made a fitting end to a great visit; Hermann had given us the best part of his day showing us around this impressive complex and all that was left was to return to John’s car for the next leg of this German road trip.

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