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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Ransomes Jacobsen supports The R&A by taking greenkeeper education to Africa

R&A logoLast November saw the launch of a very successful Greenkeeping machinery workshop in Kenya. Our distributor in the region for the past 21 years, Sunny Thethy of Kibo Sports organised the event on behalf of The R&A. This initiative was conceived some eleven months prior to the event and involved much collaboration between Sunny, Steve Isaac, The R&A’s Director of Golf Course Management and his Project Co-ordinator for The R&A Greenkeeping Machinery Programme, Wendy Cole.

1The two-day event was held at the Sigona Golf Club in Nairobi and attracted over 120 delegates from across Africa, with representatives from golf clubs in Kenya, Burundi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. It was the first ever R&A Greenkeeping Workshop in Africa and is part of the organisation’s Greenkeeping Machinery Programme (GMP), which was established in 2004 to provide support to golf facilities across the globe.

Having identified that a lack of equipment in developing golf nations can restrict many courses from maintaining good playing surfaces, The R&A set up the GMP to provide machinery free of charge to those most in need.

DSCN0088Totally funded from the profits generated by The Open, the programme provides a range of equipment from turf equipment manufacturers, Ransomes Jacobsen and SISIS. Successful applicants for funding from the GMP have access to Ransomes 5-gang trailed fairway mowers and 3-gang trailed fairway and rough mowers, Ransomes Certes pedestrian greens mowers together with pedestrian scarifiers and aerators from SISIS.

Since the programme’s inception, The R&A has supported over 140 golf clubs from more than 40 different countries, equating to an investment of over £1.7 million. This is made possible by the continuing success of The Open Championship and The R&A’s reinvestment in the sport through its ‘Working for Golf’ programme.


Kenya Golf Union Chairman Peter Warui and The R&A’s Steve Isaac

Steve Isaac hosted the workshop, which had as its prime purpose to provide East African greenkeepers with education opportunities. The training itinerary included classroom-based theory sessions and practical demonstration and hands-on training out on the golf course. Dr Paul Miller from SRUC Elmwood spoke about greenkeeper training opportunities, both in Africa and through distance learning programmes.

Theory sessions on turf management for golf courses were delivered by Derek Daly, Director of Education at the Silver Lakes Academy in South Africa.  These were supported by practical demonstrations of machinery by representatives from the manufacturers, which proved to be extremely popular.

323Nigel Church, of Ransomes Jacobsen’s Cutting Edge Training division, was present to demonstrate the company’s products. Commenting after the event he said, “This was a fantastic event and The R&A should be delighted with its success. Bringing education to the greenkeeping community across the globe is entrenched in the ethos of our business and we were delighted to take part.

DSCN0079“I thought I would simply be demonstrating our equipment, but it soon became apparent that there was such a thirst for knowledge from the delegates that it developed into practical training sessions. We looked at something as simple as setting up a cutting unit, but many had not realised the importance of this basic function. I think by the time the session ended, they had grasped the mechanics of using a setting bar and I’m sure that when they returned to their respective clubs, the playing surfaces improved considerably.”

Ewen Wilson, Export Sales Manager at SISIS, added,
“It was a great week with great people. Throughout my 32 years in the industry this has been one of the best events that we have been involved in.”

Also back in 2004, The R&A founded the Greenkeeping Scholarship Programme to provide support to students enrolled in turf management higher education, with funds provided by The R&A Foundation.  Working closely with its two selected education providers, Myerscough College in England and SRUC Elmwood in Scotland, The R&A identifies the most deserving students to receive scholarships each year.

In addition to the direct financial assistance which is available to appointed scholars, those selected also gain access to a number of exclusive networking and continuing professional development opportunities which further enhance industry exposure and employability. Since the programme’s inception, The R&A has supported over 200 scholars from more than 20 different countries, equating to an investment of over £800,000.

DSCN0012 (1)

Derek Daly demonstrates the benefits of a dew whip

Two former scholars, Derek Daly, as mentioned earlier, the Director of Education at the Silver Lakes Academy and Neville Wenhold, formerly the Superintendent at the Gary Player Country Club in Sun City, South Africa and currently Grow-in Superintendent at Dubai Hills, supported the Greenkeeping Workshop. Daly in a lecturing capacity and Wenhold, who was unable to attend as he was preparing the Gary Player course for the Nedbank Challenge, provided an excellent video showing the preparations for the tournament.

200The visit to Kenya also provided The R&A’s Steve Isaac with an opportunity to present donations of greenkeeping machinery to Njoro, Kitale, Limuru, Kiambu and Railway Golf Clubs.  Kibo Sports, who operate the dealership for Ransomes Jacobsen, Redexim and SISIS in East Africa, supply the machinery provided by The R&A’s programme.


Sunny Thethy shows KGU Chairman, Peter Warui and Steve Isaac the type of mower supplied by The R&A

Sunny Thethy of Kibo Sports said,
“Working with The R&A is always a pleasure, but with this workshop we have started something which will make a tremendous contribution not only to the condition of golf courses across the continent but also towards recognition of the role of greenkeepers. Due to its undoubted success, we are considering a series of mini training workshops later in 2015.”

The Chairman of the Kenya Golf Union, Peter Warui, noted with great appreciation the support given by The R&A and its business partners, for golf development in Kenya and wider Africa.  “The R&A has been a great friend of golf in Africa and we look forward to developing an even closer partnership with them to progress development of the sport and, in particular, greenkeeper training and education,” he said.

Nyali 9448Situated in a residential suburb, north of the creek that separates the island of Mombasa from the mainland, Nyali Golf and Country Club is a typical recipient of machinery from the programme. The 18-hole course sits in 150 acres of estate that once produced sisal for rope and twine production. The introduction of a top class irrigation system has ensured healthy conditions with flowering trees, such as the Madagascan Flame Tree bordering many of the fairways.

“Kenya has a long history with the game of golf and we now have over 40 courses in the country,” says greenkeeper Ben Murethi. “The expectations of players is for higher standards of presentation, but we are being held back by lack of suitable machinery, which may impact on our ability to retain current members and attract new golfers. Applying for The R&A-sponsored equipment and becoming a successful recipient has been a big step forward for us in terms of the quality of the playing surfaces we are now able to offer our customers.”

The Open Championship Media DayThe final words are those of Peter Dawson, who will soon be relinquishing his post as Chief Executive of The R&A,
“Across the 16,000 individual golf courses within The R&A’s global jurisdiction outside of the United States and Mexico, there is enormous variation in the availability of management resources. As part of the wider operation under our ‘Working for Golf’ programme, we are committed to enhancing the capacity of these facilities to develop and maintain good playing surfaces.

“This is achieved primarily through our advocacy of sustainable management. For some, however, the key limiting factor is a simple lack of suitable machinery with which to maintain the golf course. Through working with a global supplier, we have been able to assist over 140 individual facilities in 41 countries by providing greenkeeping machinery, free of charge, to those most in need.

“Our Greenkeeping Machinery Programme is an important component of our international development efforts for the game of golf; all made possible by the ongoing success of The Open Championship.”


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Buttoning Up for the Future

Button Hole At-A-Glance

Year Opened: 1999
Location: Providence, Rhode Island
Superintendent: John Rourke
Holes: 9
Turf: Penn Trio bentgrass on the greens, Pennway bentgrass and Red fescue on the tees, Kentucky bluegrass, Chewings fescue and Perennial ryegrass on the fairways
Equipment: Jacobsen® AR-3™ contour rotary mower (1); Jacobsen ECLIPSE2® walking greens mowers (4); Jacobsen G-Plex riding greens mowers (2); Cushman® Turf-Truckster by Jacobsen (1); Cushman SprayTek by Jacobsen (1); Jacobsen Groom Master II® bunker rake (1)
John Rourke, Superintendent of Button Hole in Providence, Rhode Island

John Rourke, Superintendent of Button Hole in Providence, Rhode Island

At a time when many are concerned with growing the game of golf, John Rourke, Superintendent of Button Hole golf course in Providence, Rhode Island, has become part of the solution.

Button Hole, a not-for-profit 9-hole golf course and driving range, was founded in 1999 with a simple vision: expose the game to underprivileged children and grow the game by catering to all walks of life.

“Button Hole was created as a means of expanding the game of golf by giving inner city youths, individuals with disabilities and people with no golf skills the opportunity to play the game. We even have scholarship programs to help those who are less fortunate,” explains Rourke. “There are approximately 25,000 disadvantaged children living within just three miles of Button Hole.”

Rourke has only been at Button Hole since last April, but is no stranger to the turf industry. After beginning school at Bryant College as an accounting major, he quickly realized he was unhappy with his career path. He decided to take a semester off and ended up spending that time working at a golf course.

During the Industrial Revolution, a shoe factory that used buttons as shoe fasteners was located on a river that now flows near the golf course. Many buttons were swept down this river and were collected in a natural swimming hole that was appropriately dubbed “Button Hole”.

During the Industrial Revolution, a shoe factory that used buttons as shoe fasteners was located on a river that now flows near the golf course. Many buttons were swept down this river and were collected in a natural swimming hole that was appropriately dubbed “Button Hole”.

Once he learned that colleges actually offered degrees in what he was doing, he transferred to the University of Rhode Island where he completed his turfgrass degree. Rourke then completed his internships at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island and Poquoy Brook Golf Course in Lakeville, Massachusetts. He then spent five years working at The Agawam Hunt Club as the Assistant Superintendent in East Providence, Rhode Island.

As you can imagine, Rourke’s job as superintendent of Button Hole is drastically different than his other experiences in the turf industry. However, despite the adjustment, Rourke has never been happier.

“The atmosphere at Button Hole is much better than at other courses I’ve worked at. Everyone is always smiling and it’s like a breath of fresh air,” says Rourke. “On the turf maintenance side of things, my priorities are much different than they used to be. For instance, green speed is never a concern. It’s about giving people a pleasurable playing experience, especially since for most people, it’s their first time playing the game.”

About a year ago, Button Hole underwent an extensive construction project funded by a grant. This project involved altering the grading of the turf in certain areas and reconstructing moundings and bunkers throughout the course. Now, all areas of the property, including the bunkers, are accessible by wheelchair.

A group of 'Button Hole Kids' receiving a golf lesson on the course.

An instructor teaches a golf lesson to a class of Button Hole Kids, children without the means to afford golf lessons on their own.

As a means of attracting children to the course, Button Hole offers a unique scholarship program where approximately 2,500 ‘Button Hole Kids’ are awarded free golf lessons and access to routine play on the course every year.

“We partner with many local schools and organizations that help to promote this scholarship. All that is required of the kids is that they fill out an application,” says Rourke.

“Since it began, we have had over 18,000 Button Hole Kids come through the program. One of our scholarship recipients went on to compete on the Women’s PGA Tour.”

One of Rourke’s favorite parts about his job is watching the kids develop as players.

“I love seeing kids come out here and play golf for the very first time and then watch them transition to becoming completely autonomous on the course,” says Rourke. “I have a five-year old son of my own who loves to play golf already, so this environment is perfect for me.”

Button Hole partners with many organizations that host a variety of events at the course each year. These events include a PGA drive, chip and putt qualifier, the Special Olympics and an annual event hosted by PGA Pro and Golf Channel analyst Brad Faxon, who is also on the board for Button Hole.

The driving range at Button Hole provides much of the funding for the course.

Button Hole’s funding, outside of donations, comes solely from driving range and putting green fees.

Button Hole’s funding, outside of donations, comes solely from driving range and putting green fees.

The money they receive from use of the driving range and the putting greens constitutes their only regular funding outside of donations.

“Our biggest challenge on the course is getting things done without a cushion of money to fall back on. We survive mainly on donations so I’ve learned to be pretty creative in finding ways to do things,” explains Rourke.

“The biggest personal challenge that I’ve had to overcome is learning to tolerate a level of conditions that are less than what I am used to providing to players.”

Despite Button Hole’s challenge with funding, the property is still maintained to the best conditions possible. Rourke has a seasonal crew of five people, two of whom are dedicated almost solely to the pro shop and driving range. Despite cold winters, the golf season at Button Hole is year-round. The only time the course closes are on days where snow covers the ground. When outdoor golf is not possible, Button Hole also offers a golf simulator and an indoor driving range.

All nine holes on the course are pitch and putt, with the shortest hole at 37 yards and the longest hole at 130 yards.

Button Hole is maintained by a variety of Jacobsen equipment including the AR-3 contour rotary mower shown above. Jacobsen dealer, Steven Willand, works with Button Hole to find affordable pieces for the course.

Button Hole is maintained by a variety of Jacobsen equipment including the AR-3 contour rotary mower shown above. Jacobsen dealer, Steven Willand, works with Button Hole to find affordable pieces for the course.

“The grass on the course is a little bit of everything. The greens and tees are almost solely bentgrass, while the fairways are made up of whatever grows,” says Rourke. “We have a great variety of Jacobsen equipment at Button Hole that our dealer, Steven Willand, Inc., has worked hard to help us obtain,” says Rourke. “The equipment has made a tremendous impact on our course and the service we are getting is unreal. It’s great to know that we have them supporting us and our cause. They are always on the lookout for affordable equipment they know we need.”

If you would like to make a donation to Button Hole, or sponsor a Button Hole Kid, please visit http://www.buttonhole.org/contribute/donate.html.

“The atmosphere at Button Hole is much better than at other courses I’ve worked at. Everyone is always smiling and it’s like a breath of fresh air,” says Rourke. “On the turf maintenance side of things, my priorities are much different than they used to be. For instance, green speed is never a concern. It’s about giving people a pleasurable playing experience, especially since for most people, it’s their first time playing the game.” ~John Rourke, Superintendent of Button Hole

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