Dubai Golf – Managing some of the most prestigious golf courses in Dubai (Part 2)

The Clubhouse and 18th hole at the Dubai Creek Golf Club on January 31, 2009 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

This is the second and concluding part of our look at Dubai Golf and their management of two of the most significant and prestigious golf clubs in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region – Emirates Golf Club and Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club.

Craig Haldane, Courses Superintendent at The Emirates Golf Club talks about his Jacobsen turf equipment and GEO certification, while Marinus Koekemoer, Desert Turfcare’s Fleet Manager for the Dubai Golf contract, explains how they prepare for two of the region’s major golf tournaments

Dubai Golf purchased a fleet of Jacobsen Eclipse2 walking greens mowers towards the end of 2014 and used them on The Faldo Course, which has Paspalum greens.

Team 4092“Prior to making the decision to change we ran a series of tests to ensure that these new units would perform as we wanted,” said Craig Haldane.  “It took us some time to learn just what they were capable of, but we found the quality of cut to be fantastic. What is really impressive is the tightness we are able to get in the sward due to the ability to play with clipping yields.

“At the standard set up we were collecting 40% more clippings than in the past and that alone was reason enough to move forward. When you really begin to fine tune the units, particularly on Paspalum surfaces, we quickly realised that we had an additional tool to assist us with improving ball roll significantly. With this course being a floodlit facility we entertain night golf and to maintain more consistency throughout the entire day was a big plus. In the past we may have had to come out mid-afternoon and cut the greens again, but this is now a very rare occurrence.

“Our second fleet arrived just ahead of the tournament this year and we had around three weeks to play around with things on our Tiff Eagle Bermuda greens ahead of the event. We had great confidence as we had been using the Eclipse2s at Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club, where our Course Superintendent Matthew Perry was having great success on tightness of sward, improved ball roll and good consistent speed throughout the day.”

January 2015 delivery 4016

The Golf Environment Organisation (GEO) is the sustainability group founded to support the golf industry, helping it deliver and be recognised for a positive impact for the people and nature it touches, now and in the future. GEO is dedicated to helping the golf sector come together around sustainability, building a reputation which demonstrates that the game is committed to contribute to the sustainability agenda. The industry reaches millions of people so has the opportunity to be a catalyst by raising sustainability awareness and leading by example.

GEO_V_CMYK“We were introduced to Jonathan Smith from GEO in 2010-11 and loved the concept and ideology behind GEO. In fact, it became one of our Key Performance Indicators and my task was to get us to a stage where we would be ready to move forward with the certification. We created a team internally and began to meet on a regular basis, slowly going through the system and implementing as much of what was required as possible. In 2014 I felt confident that we were ready for a visit, at which point we invited Pablo Munoz over to Emirates to visit us for four full days to go through our facilities not only in Golf Course Maintenance, but also our clubhouse, kitchens, engineering and all back of house areas.

“It was an intensive few days but, with the experience that Pablo brought with him, we were made to feel relaxed and the aim was always to help us highlight what in fact we were already doing very well and for us to have a means to start shouting about it for all the right reasons. We quickly realised that we were already doing a lot of the best practices, particularly within the course maintenance department. As an industry, most Golf Course Superintendents are fantastic stewards of the environment and will be doing the right thing anyway.

 The par 3, 15th hole at the Dubai Creek

The par 3, 15th hole at the Dubai Creek

“GEO gave us some great suggestions to enhance what we are doing, as well as suggestions on areas where we may want to look at and introducing new elements to what we already do. This year, the Dubai Creek Golf Club will be certified meaning we will have both properties fully certified, something we are very proud of. Of course, this ties in perfectly with our company Vision, Mission and Values which makes the exercise that much more rewarding.”

Marinus Koekemoer is Desert Turfcare’s Fleet Manager for the Dubai Golf contract. They are maintaining a fleet in excess of 600 machines for the two courses with a team of 25 mechanics and a dedicated administrator based at each course.  He work’s very closely with Craig Haldane.

Like Haldane, Koekemoer is a South African who began his career as an apprentice turf technician in 2003 with Golf Matrix, a local Golf and Turf dealership. During his five-year period with the business, he was involved in service and fleet maintenance contracts throughout the country, overseeing fleets of John Deere equipment. After winning the Sun International contract, he moved to Limpopo to run the fleets at the Gary Player and Lost City, his first major tournaments being The Nedbank Golf Challenge, the Woman’s World Cup and Dimension Data Pro-Am Championship.

In 2007 he relocated to the Western Coast of South Africa, working as Equipment Manager for Turfworx before being promoted to National Technical Manager, where he was responsible for overseeing the equipment fleets at Pezula championship golf course, Pinnacle Point and several other sports fields.

Then in 2014 he was offered the job at Desert Turfcare as Fleet Manager for the Dubai Golf contract to maintain the fleet of equipment at Emirates and Dubai Creek. The combined fleet consists of around 300 items of mowing equipment and almost 500 golf cars. Included in the maintenance contract is a five year equipment replacement program with Ransomes Jacobsen and upgrading of the workshop facilities.

Slide28“As you can imagine to maintain a fleet of this size requires a lot of people,” he said. “We have a dedicated team of 23, working in different shifts to cover all areas of Dubai Golf’s operations. This includes technicians, administrators and cleaning colleagues with the main focus on preventative maintenance to ensure that the Jacobsen equipment is performing to its optimum and that the customer (Dubai Golf) receives the best service possible.

“New upgraded service schedules have been put in place to ensure any issue is detected long before it becomes a major problem. Together with Ransomes Jacobsen we are working on a new intensified training program with all the data we collect from our operations.

“Communication plays a major role when managing a contract of this extent, so as Craig stated earlier, we are talking every day to discuss the golf course programmes and to plan for course closures or events. We also have a quarterly meeting to discuss any major subjects or changes that need to be made. During tournament times meetings increase massively and we meet up to five times a day to plan and discuss schedules.”

Ladies Classic2The two golf clubs host some of the most prestigious tournaments in the Gulf: Emirates Golf Club hosts the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters and Omega Dubai Desert Classic while Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club play host to the Mena Golf Tournament, Dubai Creek Open and most recently the Icons Cup, featuring two teams of iconic sports stars from the USA and Rest of the World.

“At Emirates preparation for the course starts in November when we overseed the Majlis with rye grass,” Koekemoer continued. “During the grow-in period all the mowing equipment is checked and sharpened to insure a clean crisp cut for the new seedlings. Also all hydraulic hoses, bearings and bushes need to be checked and replaced where necessary to avoid having any issues during the tournament itself. Each machine is then labelled with the dedicated area that it will be mowing and the height of cut.”

Slide57Dubai Golf has a number of tournament support vehicles, which are used by contractors and European Tour during the set-up for the tournaments. Two months prior to the Ladies Masters these vehicles are prepared and allocated to individuals in different departments. Golf in Dubai, the events management company, Dubai Golf and the European Tour sends a list of vehicles required for the duration of the tournament to Marinus.

To keep track of every golf car and utility vehicle, they are labelled and a spreadsheet created to monitor who uses them each day. Individuals have to sign the vehicle in and out. Once a golf cart gets signed in after use, it is checked and charged to be used the following day.

Slide8“Before each tournament my technicians check equipment oil, coolant and lights and then all the equipment to be used on that particular day is lined up for the operators. We then have a morning briefing with the entire team to confirm the operation of the morning cut.

“The mowers are driven out to their respective areas and are checked on the course; we have one dedicated technician for greens mowers and a team of 2 technicians checking the other equipment. The remainder of the team stand ready in the workshop for call outs on any issues being detected.

“The tournament support vehicles are checked again to insure they are fully charged, signed out and parked at their designated areas. After mowing, all machines return to the maintenance facility where they are washed down, sharpened, refuelled and checked again for the evening cut. Any issues reported or noted need to be attended to in this time period.

“As for the morning cut, an evening briefing takes place with the team, and the same mowing routine is followed. Once the equipment has returned it is prepared for the next morning cut. All the tournament support vehicles are signed in, checked and charged for the next morning’s operations.

Throughout the tournament heights of cut change as conditions of the course change especially on greens as they start speeding up at the final stages of tournament. This is due to less water, the mowing frequency and the rolling programme.

Slide225Commenting on the Jacobsen equipment and the Eclipse 2 walking greens mower in particular, Koekemoer said,
“With the Eclipse 2 we are able to mow at a higher height of cut by setting the frequency of cut (FOC) according to the height setting of the mower or adjusting the mow speed slower with a higher reel speed to increase the FOC to get more cuts per metre. This means healthier turf, less stress on the greens and less mowing.

“The Eclipse mower has really come a long way from where it started and having worked with all three major brands, I can confidently say that it’s right on top when it comes to quality of cut and ease of maintenance. Being able to set the FOC and weight distribution of the machine ensures that the Eclipse 2 can be used for any type of turf and conditions.

Slide220“The TrueSet cutting unit adjustment, which allows the reel to blade and height of cut setting to be made with exceptional precision and using only one tool, is a great feature. We have 29 Eclipse mowers between the two courses and keeping them sharp on a daily basis has been made easy with the on-board back lapping facility, instead of using a back lapping machine to do one machine at a time.”

The final words go to Craig Haldane as he summed up Dubai Golf’s relationship with Ransomes Jacobsen saying,
“Our partnership with Ransomes Jacobsen is hugely valued; they fully appreciate our goals and aspirations and they share the same core values that drive our business – innovation, teamwork, integrity, customer focus and passion. It is everything you would expect from a mutually beneficial partnership.”


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Dubai Golf – Managing some of the most prestigious golf courses in Dubai (Part 1)

Textron’s golf sector businesses, Jacobsen and E-Z-GO, are at the forefront of the industry in Dubai supporting two significant and prestigious golf clubs in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region – Emirates Golf Club and Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club.

We talked to Craig Haldane, Courses Superintendent at The Emirates Golf Club and in the first of this two-part article we look at his background in the industry, Dubai Golf – who manage the prestigious clubs, and his turf maintenance regimes.

Emirates Clubhouse

The iconic Emirates clubhouse

Emirates Golf Club was the first grass championship course in the region when it opened back in 1988. Today it boasts 45 holes of world-class golf on two of the city’s finest courses, the Majlis and the Faldo Course, as well as the challenging Par 3 course with holes varying from 100 to 190 yards. It also features possibly the most iconic clubhouse in the Middle East. Both courses combine the natural rolling desert terrain with lush winding green playing surfaces for a serious test of golf, with the Faldo course being the only 18-hole course in the region to offer night golf.

The flagship Majlis championship course is a challenging par 72, 7,301-yard layout. Designed by Florida-based course architect Karl Litten, the original 18 holes were built in and around the dunes of a beautiful site on the edge of the city of Dubai, donated by His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, on whose instructions the desert flora was maintained in its natural state. It is the venue for the European PGA Tour’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic and the Omega Dubai Ladies’ Masters.

The Clubhouse and 18th hole at the Dubai Creek Golf Club on January 31, 2009 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The Clubhouse and 18th hole at the Dubai Creek

Dominating Dubai’s waterfront, the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club overlooks the Creek and Marina. It opened in January 1993 to world acclaim and since then it has been host to numerous tournaments and events, including the Dubai Desert Classic on two occasions. The 18-hole par 71 championship Creek course measures 6,967 yards and features superbly manicured undulating fairways framed by date and palm trees. The course record of 63 is jointly held by Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke.

hole at The Dubai Creek Golf Club Golf Club on January 20, 2009 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

5th hole at Dubai Creek

The 9-hole, Par-3 course was redesigned in 2004 and is ideal for beginners to test their skills before taking on the championship course and being floodlit makes for an enjoyable round of social golf after sunset. The clubhouse design mirrors the sails of a traditional Arab dhow and remains one of the most photographed landmarks since it opened in 1993.

Both clubs are managed by Dubai Golf, a leisure subsidiary of Wasl Asset Management Group, one of the largest real estate management companies in Dubai. Wasl operates across many sectors including residential and commercial properties, land banks, leisure and entertainment, hotels and serviced apartments.


Fine dining at Le Classique

Dubai Golf with its two world-class golf courses and luxurious clubhouses, manages some of the most spectacular locations for golf, events and entertainment in the region. It also manages an online tee time booking system for both Dubai courses, its third course – Almouj Golf – in Muscat, Oman as well as servicing a central reservations office that books golf at all the UAE golf courses. It also provides a wide range of market leading golf and leisure related services including fine dining restaurants, golf academies, recreational amenities and residential developments.

In January 2013 Dubai Golf signed a five-year preferred supplier agreement with Ransomes Jacobsen and at the same time signed a maintenance contract with Desert Turfcare, the former Jacobsen distributor for the United Arab Emirates.

Craig Haldane is the Director, Golf Course Maintenance at Dubai Golf. He joined the organisation back in 2006 at the then fully floodlit Nad Al Sheba Golf Club situated in the middle of the famous Nad Al Sheba Race Track. A year later he moved to Emirates Golf Club as Golf Course Superintendent, where he has worked for the past eight years. In 2011 his role evolved into Director of Golf Course Maintenance for the group, whilst remaining in charge of the daily activities at Emirates.

Craig Haldane 528

Craig Haldane

South African-born Haldane studied Sports Administration and Marketing majoring in Golf at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. Part of his studies included a 6-month work placement, which he secured with the Golf Course Maintenance department at Fancourt, the leisure resort at George in the Western Cape. On completion of his placement he was offered a position as Irrigation and Chemical Technician with the opportunity to re-train in Sports Turf Management in Cape Town, whilst working full time.

Commenting on his formative years at Fancourt he said,
“Over my four years at Fancourt I watched the property grow from three sets of 9-holes to 78 holes of golf, including four 18-hole golf courses and a 6-hole golf school. I grew into various positions including being the Assistant Superintendent on the Outeniqua Golf Course, and then as grow-in/assistant Superintendent on The Links at Fancourt. I had a great mentor in Greg Leckie who guided me through my early career and gave me my first start in the profession. “

Hole 7 on the Ocean Course at Ria Bintan

Hole 7 on the Ocean Course at Ria Bintan

He then moved to Indonesia and took a job as Assistant Superintendent at Ria Bintan Golf Club on the island on Bintan. Following a short stint back in South Africa growing in the fourth golf course at Fancourt, Bramble Hill, he was approached and offered the opportunity to go and work at Riffa Golf Club in Bahrain as Assistant Superintendent.

“18 months later I stepped up into the Superintendent role after Steve Johnson took a wonderful opportunity to further his career abroad. I enjoyed five great years in Bahrain before being contacted by Dubai Golf for the opportunity within their portfolio of three facilities.”

As stated earlier, Dubai Golf signed a preferred supplier agreement with Ransomes Jacobsen early in 2013 and at the same time the decision was taken to outsource the maintenance of their extensive fleet to Desert Turfcare.

January 2015 delivery 4016

Some of new fleet delivered in January 2015

“This made sound commercial sense,” Haldane added, “as the distributor remains responsible for the maintenance of our fleet in order for us to maintain the equipment to the exacting standards set by the manufacturer. This means that our buy-back agreements will be met when renewing our fleet over the years ahead. Marinus Koekemoer was appointed by Desert to oversee our fleet of turf maintenance equipment as well as our fleet of vehicles.”

In his role as Fleet Manager for the contract, Koekemoer divides his time between Emirates Golf Club and Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club. At Dubai Creek, he reports to Golf Course Superintendent, Matthew Perry and at the Emirates he reports to Haldane.

Koekemoer with Matt Perry at Dubai Creek

Marinus with Matt Perry at Dubai Creek

“Matt and I consider Marinus as an integral part of our team and we communicate as you would with your equipment manager at any other facility. To us, this role is key. Say what you like, but without a well maintained fleet of equipment and a neat and tidy workshop, you can’t produce the goods out on the course. We meet daily, weekly and quarterly to fulfill all of our operational needs; he submits monthly reports and works alongside us planning the work as well as providing quarterly updates on our Key Performance Indicators, so that we fulfil our commitments to the company Vision, Mission and Values.”

The PGA European Tour sanctioned Omega Dubai Desert Classic and the Omega Dubai Ladies’ Masters at Emirates Golf Club are extremely prestigious and high-profile events. Hosting these events can be challenging, but having a clear plan that is communicated and understood by every member of the team ensures that the job gets done.

Haldane continued, providing an insight to how he prepares for these events,
“Planning is the key! It’s as simple as that. Hosting events can be very challenging, but if you plan well and manage expectations clearly and effectively, the task becomes most enjoyable.


18th hole on Majlis course

“We over-seed the course for the winter season and the planning for this process begins directly behind the tournament itself. We obtain our seed from abroad, so need to ensure we have our orders confirmed and in place right away. We deal with transition in late May and throughout the month of June, when the cool season grasses die back and we encourage our warm season Bermuda grasses to return. This process is followed by our annual aeration schedules for the season, which is a key management process in preparing the turf for the season ahead.

“For the two events we really fine tune our practices so that we peak at the right time. The challenge is in not taking things too far in the first event, so that we have recovery time for our second, which is as little as five weeks later. It all comes down to the quality of surfaces first and foremost and we are fortunate that over the years we have managed to produce the quality expected through a consistent programme involving all of the above plus good nutrition programs, sound water management and a dedicated team of greenkeepers who are passionate about producing the best possible golf course they can, on a daily basis.”

Emirates 21.03.15The heights of cut for the tournaments vary only slightly from normal practices. However, the frequency of cuts changes dramatically with many more mowing events on greens in particular leading up the event and during the event itself. It involves multiple cuts, multiple times a day so that the team can manage growth rates and clipping yields resulting in more consistent surfaces for the entire day.

“Our typical tournament heights on greens are 2.8 to 3mm, approaches and tees 5 to 7mm and fairways 7 to 9mm. We introduce two cuts of rough at 32mm and 64mm and maintain all the rough to 64mm until the week of the tournament when we do our final cut on the Sunday and leave it for the remainder of the week,” he added.

Trueness and firmness are most important on the greens

Trueness and firmness are most important on the greens

When asked about green speed at the tournaments his reply was interesting,
“The two most important aspects when it comes to this area is trueness of ball roll and firmness of surfaces. Green speed will come as a result of these two being on point. The weather plays an important role here too and during the event there is a weather team keeping an eye on things, in particular, wind. By the practice rounds you want the greens performing as they will for the entire week. The key is managing the greens so that they are consistent for the entire seven days, with very slight increases expected over the weekend. You don’t want to lose more than 4 to 6 inches through the entire day of play, and this is the challenge.

“Over the years we have run speeds from 11.5 through to 14 as it is really dependent on how healthy you are going into the event, the conditions the week of the tournament and feedback from the players themselves. The tournament director, chief referee, the European Tour’s consulting greenkeeper (Graham MacNiven) and I meet throughout the day and agree our targets. It’s my job to ensure they are met and I do this my adjusting my mowing, rolling and irrigation regimes to suite. As I said before, trueness and firmness always come first. We never sacrifice greens for speed!

Next month Craig Haldane talks about his Jacobsen turf equipment and GEO certification, while Marinus Koekemoer, Desert Turfcare’s Fleet Manager for the Dubai Golf contract, explains how they prepare for two of the region’s major golf tournaments.


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Odense Golf Club – 30,000 rounds in 7 months demands top greenkeeping skills

Crest 294Odense Golf Club was founded at a meeting held on September 29, 1927, and the first course was built at Kløvermosevej, a suburb in the southwest of the city. It consisted of 9 holes with a length of 2,815 yards and was completed in 1928. It was constructed on land previously used by the Danish army for training horses.

Following the expiry of its lease in 1962, the club moved to the area of Snapindskoven where a new 9 hole course was constructed.

foto 2However, conditions were cramped and in 1980 the decision was taken to build a new complex with an 18-hole course of international standard (Holluf Park) and a 9-hole course (Pile) at Neder Holluf, south of the city centre. The purchase of this site, just 5 kilometres from the original 1928 course, was a joint venture between the local community and the golf club.

Hans-Henrik Burkal 315Hans Henrik Burkal, the Club Manager, is an interesting character; he was a Prison Officer for five years and for 18 years was General Secretary of the Danish Swimming and Lifesaving Association. He was a member of the Danish delegation at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney and also officiated at the 1991 and 1999 World Swimming Championships in Perth and again in Hong Kong in 1996. He joined Odense in 2009, following seven years in a similar position at a club in Zeeland.

He is responsible for 13 staff including seven greenkeepers, a housekeeper, a gardener and two Golf Professionals, which is unusual as Pros are not normally employees.

“We have a very loyal membership of almost 1,300, of which 50 are juniors and 60% who are over 50,” he said. “Rightly so, they are very demanding and we have to present the courses to the highest standards at all times. I have an excellent greenkeeping team, led by Jack Rasmussen, our Course Manager and we have a superb relationship with our machinery dealer, Svenningsens, which is an important factor when we have to maintaining the courses at such a high level.”

Course 157The 18-hole, par 72 Holluf Park parkland course is slightly undulating and features push-up greens, three large lakes and 90 bunkers. It is bordered by a local stream, so water comes into play on a majority of holes. For experienced players it is a real challenge and has hosted many Danish championships. Flooding can be an issue and the course is closed from the beginning of December through to April.

As you would expect the 9-hole, par 31 Pile course has significantly shorter holes than Holluf Park, but is nevertheless a real golf course. It is the ideal place for high handicap golfers and beginners or for those who seek a leisurely round of golf. It is maintained to the same exacting standards as the Holluf Park course.

Jack Rasmussen 309Course Manager Jack Rasmussen completed his education as a Landscape Gardener in 1994 and was the first Dane to specialise in turfgrass management. He joined Odense Golf Club in 2003 and in 2008 succeeded his father when he was appointed to his current role. He leads a team of seven greenkeeping staff including a dedicated mechanic.

“As Hans Henrik said earlier, we have very demanding members and we have to concentrate on presenting the courses to its maximum, at all times. With just seven of us on the greenkeeping team, that’s a big task so we have to have equipment that we can depend and rely on.

“That’s why we have chosen Jacobsen and their local distributor Svenningsens as our preferred supplier of our mowers and other course maintenance equipment through to 2020.

“In 2013 we purchased our first Eclipse 322 diesel-electric hybrid mower and it has been very successful. We can change the number of cuts per metre depending on the growing conditions and also have the option of increasing the frequency of cut for tournaments, if we want to increase green speed without lowering the height of cut.”

The maintenance regime follows a regular pattern with the greens being cut at 4 mm, six times per week and the holes moved five times; the approaches (8 mm), tees (14 mm) and fairways (14 mm) are mown three times a week. The semi-rough on greens surrounds is cut at 51 mm and the semi-rough on the remainder of the course is maintained at 100 mm.
Odense Fleet 297
Denmark has some of the most stringent laws in Europe concerning the use of chemicals on golf courses. For example, fungicides can only be applied three times a year and if you operate a 100 hectare area, it is only permissible to spray a total of 5 hectares. This makes it extremely difficult to manage a course, but it’s something that Danish greenkeepers take in their stride.

“Jacobsen has the best quality of cut by far,” says Jack Rasmussen, “and that helps us when it comes to combatting disease. Our Jacobsen R311 is a good, solid machine and our GP400 triplex which we use for tees and surrounds does a perfect job for us.”

37The grounds of the Syddansk Unversitet (University of Southern Denmark) borders the northern end of the golf course and the club offers a special student membership of Danish Krone 2100 (around UK £200 a year). This provides an excellent entry level for prospective members and many choose to stay on. The club attracted 257 new members in 2014, a remarkable statistic when golf was still suffering from a global depression.

Hans Henrik Burkal re-joined the conversation and provided some interesting statistics concerning the number of rounds played during 2014. The total was 29,594 played, of which 26,117 were by members and 3,477 by guests. That equated to an average of 22 rounds per member, with one member registering an incredible 190 rounds. The average handicap was 23.6, 29.5 for women and 21.0 for men.

Odense Team 306“When you consider that we are closed for five months of the year, nearly 30,000 rounds of golf puts a lot of pressure on Jack and his team,” he said. “With the support of trusted suppliers such as Svenningsens and reliable products from Jacobsen, we give them the tools to produce quality playing surfaces. I truly believe we have the best greenkeeping team in Denmark.”

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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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