Rupert Price and the team from Price Turfcare had a superb response to their first visit as exhibitors at The Game Fair, held at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire at the end of July. With almost 120,000 visitors across the three-day event, the exposure for the Ventrac brand was outstanding. It was the busiest ever opening day in The Game Fairs 62-year history, with a three-day total of 119,378 people enjoying the return of the festival of the Great British countryside.
Commenting a couple of days after the show, Rupert Price said,
“This was our first time as exhibitors at The Game Fair and it was an incredible experience. Visitors to this event are a prime section of the target audience for our Ventrac all-terrain compact tractor together with its range of attachments and there was huge interest. We marketed it as the Estate Manager’s Swiss Army Knife and it certainly drew a lot of attention.
“I think it helped that we had moving demonstrations on our stand, which enabled visitors to get a glimpse of what the machine can do. We had ramps at 20 and 30 degrees to demonstrate its unique climbing ability and also had a bit of fun when we balanced a football in the airflow of one of the leaf blower attachments, which tended to stop people in their tracks. This is a family-friendly event and it was great to see so many young children besotted with machinery, especially tractors. We had hundreds of photos taken with them sitting on our static display and we exhausted our supply of ‘Venny Ventrac’ colouring books midway through the second day.
“At this type of event you don’t expect to sell large price-ticket equipment such as ours, but it does provide the opportunity for exposure and to talk to prospective purchasers. I have to say that we have come away with some superb leads and it’s going to take quite some time to follow them up, but that’s a nice problem to have. We’ll definitely return next year.” The Ventrac all-terrain compactor has over 30 different attachments that can be front-mounted to provide an extremely versatile machine for a wide range of estate management applications. With a choice of eight mowing decks, it can maintain grassed areas ranging from fine turf to thick brush. Other attachments include aerators, aera-vators, brushes, blowers, overseeders, rotovators, buckets and grabs, stump grinders, trenchers and snow removal accessories. In its eight-wheel configuration it can operate on slopes of 30 degrees – the only ride-on machine in the UK certificated for such steep gradients.
JCB Golf & Country Club, the flagship sales and marketing tool of the JCB brand, situated in rolling parkland adjacent to the company’s World Headquarters in Staffordshire, has purchased a package of Ventrac equipment from local dealer, Sharrocks. Included in the package is a Ventrac 4500 all-terrain compact tractor with dual-wheels, a Tough Cut rotary deck, a Power Broom and a Stump Grinder.
The 7,400-yard course, which opened in 2018, was designed by architect Robin Hiseman of European Golf Design, and is situated in 280 acres on the estate of the former Woodseat Hall and surrounding farmland. It can be played by JCB management, staff and their guests, together with private and corporate members including dealers, suppliers and major customers. Integral to the design brief is the expectation that it will become a regular venue for a professional tour golf.
Callum Wark is the Course Manager and is responsible for a team of 31 full-time staff including three apprentices, two irrigation technicians, two mechanics and four gardeners. He’s been at the course since its inception having been employed here since the start of the course build back in 2016.
“It’s the best decision I’ve made in my career, so far,” he said. “I previously worked at Loch Lomond and it was great grounding, but when I was offered the opportunity to work on a new build, something very rare these days, especially so in the UK, I jumped at the chance. I worked as Head Greenkeeper under Euan Grant and when he left, I applied for the job of Course Manager and was successful.
“We have large estate to manage here and the CEO demands that it is of the highest quality possible. Not just the golf course, but all the areas surrounding the clubhouse, our luxury lodges and the academy. JCB is renowned across the globe and our facilities here must reflect the esteem intrinsic in the brand. That’s our goal and, in a nutshell, that’s my job.
“Therefore, we need robust and reliable equipment, to ensure that we maintain the property to these exacting standards. And, that’s why we’ve purchased the Ventrac package. This course has been designed to accommodate championship golf and has been constructed with dramatic fescue mounds and banking for spectator viewing. We needed a machine that could tackle these slopes; we tried other machines, but none came close to what the Ventrac could do. The initial demonstration was excellent and we knew very quickly that it was the machine for us.
“We have 10 km of tarmac-ed cart paths and these need to be swept clean on a regular basis. We also have extensive car-parking and other hard landscaped surfaces, so the inclusion of the Power Brush in the package was an obvious choice. We have numerous tees on each hole, but the championship tees are rarely used and this can lead to a moss issue. This can be controlled by setting the broom bristles to just touch the sward and removal is quick and simple. Being a woodland estate, the Tough Cut deck and Stump Grinder come into their own when we clear any woodland margins. “Versatility is the key word when describing the Ventrac; one power unit for many accessories. I need to make a business case for the additional purchase of the Cart Path Edger. The cart paths are all edged with kerbs and a strip of fine fescue either side. I usually send four guys out to edge those areas, whereas one guy on a Ventrac could do that in just one day.”
Tim McCutcheon is the Head Mechanic and has been described as a green-keeper with a passion for mechanics. He began his career at Lichfield Golf Club, before enrolling on the Ohio State Program, where he spent 18 months working at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, OK, recognised as one of the top 100 courses in the world and host to 15 Championships since 1945. “What can I say about this machine apart from it’s brilliant,” he said. “From a greenkeeping perspective it’s so versatile, but from a mechanic’s point of view, it’s a dream. It’s robustly built, the belts are easily accessible and simple to change, as is the access to filters and grease points. The flip-up decks make cleaning and maintenance easy and the accessory mounting system is ingenious. One thing is outstanding, especially in my role, and that’s the quality of the manuals. They are extensive and in colour, which really helps when trying to identify parts. All-in-all, a great addition to our fleet.”
The Ventrac will support the Football Club’s new £100 Million Training Centre
Leicester City Football Club, last season’s FA Cup winners, is the latest organisation to appreciate the multiple benefits of Ventrac. Delivered by local dealer, Farols, the package included a Ventrac 4500 all-terrain compact tractor in dual-wheel configuration, a Contour mowing deck, Trencher and Power Broom and will be used to maintain their new world-class training centre of at Seagrave in Leicestershire.
Following a demonstration earlier this year and with input from his team, John Ledwidge, Head of Sports Turf and Grounds at the Premier League club, specified the purchase. He is an integral part of the team that has developed the world-class training facility, where he oversees the management and development of the 180-acre site. This includes the equivalent of 14 turf pitches, synthetic pitches, a 9-hole golf course and the world’s first dedicated Sports Turf Academy.
Commenting on the latest addition to the machinery fleet, he said,
“Our owner is passionate about this football club and the community we share. He wants the very best and this facility demonstrates that commitment. We all share his vision and our aim is to make this the premier training centre in Europe.
“To be fair, we took a lot of our inspiration from the exceptional job Darren Baldwin has done at Tottenham’s facility, where we first saw the Ventrac in action during the research phase of the plan. I’d also seen it at various trade fairs and in the media. We needed a machine that was highly versatile, that can help us here improve a site that’s going to be constantly evolving over the next five years.
“The Contour deck helps us maintain the numerous banks and sloped areas around the complex, including ‘Mount Vardy’, the nickname we’ve given to a landscaped area of unused spoil from the original build. It is also used on the golf course where its articulated design prevents scalping. We’ve used the Trencher to insert drainage bands in some particularly wet areas of the golf course and the Power Broom does a great job on the pathways and carparks. It’s all about quality presentation and the versatility of the Ventrac helps us achieve the high standards demanded here.”
Chris Minton is the club’s Head Mechanic, supervising a team of three in the state-of-the-art Maintenance Facility located within the Sports Turf Academy building. Commenting on the Ventrac he said, “It’s a very good and impressive piece of kit; robustly constructed and powerful, considering it has a sub-25 hp engine. It’s simple to work on, all the belts are easily accessible as are the greasing points and the flip-up decks make our job easier when we need to access the blades or blade spindles. Definitely a very good addition to our fleet.”
John Ledwidge’s career
John began his career in 2002 as an apprentice groundsman at Coventry City where, at the tender age of 19, he was promoted to Deputy Head Groundsman. In 2008 he was appointed Assistant Grounds Manager at Aston Villa and 18 months later returned to Coventry to take up the Head Groundsman role, where he was responsible for directing pitch preparations for the London 2012 Olympics at the City of Coventry Stadium (now the Ricoh Arena).
Following the much-publicised issues at Coventry during this time, he then joined Ricoh Arena in the role of Grounds Manager and in 2014 was successful when he applied for Head Groundsman’s position at Leicester City. In 2016 he was promoted to Grounds Manager and then in July 2019 he took up his current role as Head of Sports Turf and Grounds, where he leads a team of 52 staff working across multiple sites and is actively involved in the ongoing development and investment in the class-leading sports turf surfaces at the club.