Over the past couple of years, the True Fit Golf Centre at Cuerdley near Warrington has purchased two Ventrac all-terrain compact tractors and a selection of attachments to maintain the 18-hole Fiddlers Ferry golf course and 22-bay driving range. All of the equipment was purchased through their local dealer, Cheshire Turf Machinery.
The True Fit Golf Centre was originally formed in 1985 as a golf club assembly business by engineer Mark Overton, before he added a 9-hole golf course, which quickly turned into 18-holes of golf when a local farmer sold him some adjoining land.
The small course maintenance team were using an eclectic mix of mowing equipment before the engineer in Mark Overton decided there must be a more cost-effect way to manage the 5,500-yard course.
“I followed Ventrac on YouTube long before I decided to have a demo, as it appealed to my engineering instincts”, he said. “I liked the fact that you have a single power unit and multiple attachments to do various jobs around the course. We purchased our first unit back in 2020 and it quickly became apparent that we needed another one. We were considering the purchase of a new fairway mower from a major brand, but for the £80,000 purchase price we can have a Ventrac with a selection of attachments that do more than just on task. It just made sound commercial sense.”
Ian Millington is the principal operator of the machine and said,
“We have the two tractor units and added more attachments over time, so we now have a Contour deck, which we set at 35mm for the semi-rough and the triple Reel mower, which is set at 14mm for the fairways. This unit cuts as well, if not better, than some of the major brands. The Tough Cut deck is used on overgrown areas, and the Trencher is used for creating drainage bands, as we are situated very close to the river Mersey and it can be wet at times. Our final attachment is the Power Rake which we use for reinstating gravel pathways or preparing new areas when we need to break up the soil. It really has added to the overall presentation and playability of the course; even the golfers have made favourable comments!”
Mark Overton added, “We are a Pay-and-Play course with many regulars using our seasonal pass, creating a membership feel. All greens and tees have been built to USGA specifications and it has been designed to suit all levels of golfer from the beginner right through to the regular enthusiast. We’re not a long course by any calculation, but the Ventrac is the ideal solution for cost-effective course maintenance.
“Covering over 120 acres, the course has many water features and can be quite wet due to our proximity to the river as Ian alluded to earlier. Now, with the Trencher, we have the flexibility to install drainage when we want to and are not reliant on contractors. And we can get the machine out when it’s wet due to its incredibly low ground pressure. It’s robust, very well built and, as we have proved, it’s not just a machine for high-end clubs. Yes, we definitely like it.”
Newbury & Crookham Golf Club have purchased a Ventrac 4500 all-terrain compact tractor and two mowing decks, which course manager Chris Ball says will make the greenkeeping department at the 148-year-old club even more efficient. Purchased from local dealer, T H White, the package included a Contour mowing deck and a Tough Cut deck, which will enable the greenkeeping team to work smarter and safely when maintaining the woodland margins and steep banks on 6,000-yard course.
“My team have done an exceptional job during the pandemic crisis and it is only right that we should ensure they work in complete safety, not just in these exceptional circumstances, but at all times. These two decks in conjunction with the eight-wheel tractor unit guarantee that when working on tee banks or around the reservoir, they can do so in complete safety. As a small team of just six, it’s important that we work smarter; now we can cut areas mechanically using just one person, where we previously used numerous team members with brushcutters, saving many greenkeeping hours that can now be utilised elsewhere on the course.”
“The Tough Cut deck will help us both ecologically and aesthetically, keeping the woodland floor open and encouraging more spring bulbs to flourish. We want to see carpets of bluebells in subsequent years. Also, with the Contour deck we’ll be able to maintain steeper areas on the course making the presentation even more appealing for members and visitors. We’ve only had the equipment since mid-May, but already it has proved its worth; it’s a simple, clever design, does the job and is easy to maintain.”
Chris Ball joined Woking Golf Club as an apprentice in 1994 and knew immediately that this was to be his chosen career. In 1998 he moved on to Guildford Golf Club and four years later joined Walton Heath, working under two renowned industry figures in Clive Osgood and Ian McMillan. In 2002 he joined Bearwood Lakes, where he was appointed head greenkeeper, reporting to the course manager. He has been course manager at Newbury and Crookham since 2014.
Newbury & Crookham is one of the oldest clubs in England, established in 1873. The 18-hole, par 69 golf course measures just under 6000 yards and is set amongst beautiful mature woodland. Situated on the south side of Newbury, between Greenham Common and the racecourse, the current course dates back to 1923, when the Newbury and District Club was founded. Crookham Golf Club was founded in 1873 on Greenham Common, but after it was requisitioned in 1940 by the MOD, the members were given temporary membership by their neighbours, which eventually became permanent and the club adopting its current name.
Iain Dye, the Courses Manager at The RAC in Woodcote Park, has taken delivery of a Ventrac 4500 with Contour deck and Tough Cut deck, to help maintain the two downland golf courses and surrounding estate.
Situated within the rolling Epsom Downs in Surrey, the Old Course, designed by the renowned William Herbert Fowler, was opened in 1915, while the Coronation Course was inaugurated in 1953, occupying the site of the club’s former New Course, which had been ploughed up during the Second World War.
Commenting recently Iain Dye said,
“I first saw the Ventrac during a demonstration at Tandridge Golf Club and although very impressed, we didn’t have the budget at the time to purchase it. However, the recent construction of our new reservoir prompted me to ask Rupert Price of Price Turfcare for demo here.
“It really comes into its own when mowing the steep sides of the retention walls. It would take a huge number of team hours to strim this area, so it’s saving a lot of time that can be used productively elsewhere on the courses.
“Apart from some utility vehicles we are a Toro fleet, but this Ventrac is unique and extremely versatile. We can use it for woodland management with the Tough Cut deck to get into the margins to clear brambles and brush. The health and safety aspect was an important factor in the purchase; nobody likes strimming at the best of times, but on steep slopes it’s a particularly onerous task. The Ventrac can operate on slopes of 30 degrees in complete safety; it seems to go anywhere!
“The Contour deck articulates well on uneven terrain, reducing scalping on high areas and we’ll be using it on our fairways during the winter to protect our fairway units from any worm casts. Also, it can go out in wet weather as the eight tyres produce only 6 psi, so it won’t mark the finer turf areas.
“We can now raise the presentation around the courses, maintaining steeper banks which we were unable to manage previously. These areas can be mown regularly and therefore become even more manageable over time.”
During the summer months Iain has a team of 27 including two Deputy Course Managers; Gary Stewart is responsible for the Old Course and Simon Glover for the Coronation Course. He also has two full-time mechanics and a mechanic/greenkeeper, who all ensure that the machinery works well at all times. He joined the RAC in June 2020 from Tandridge Golf Club, where he spent 14 years, initially as Deputy Course Manager before being promoted to Course Manager in 2013. After studying at Elmwood College, he joined the greenkeeping team on the Jubilee Course at St. Andrews in 1997 and worked on the Old Course from 2001, before moving from Scotland to take the job at Tandridge.
The owners of Dudsbury Golf Club, Hotel & Spa, Beate and Len Robinson, have supported long-serving head greenkeeper Warren Moss with the purchase of a Ventrac 4500 all-terrain compact tractor and Contour mowing deck to ensure the course stays in pristine condition. Replacing an old zero-turn machine and an ageing Toro Sidewinder, the new package makes sound commercial sense.
Commenting at the recent handover of the equipment Warren Moss said,
“We have an ageing fleet and we need to be smarter in how we purchase equipment in the future. The owners were very supportive when I made the business case and we are replacing two machines with one. Because of its versatility, we can add more attachments at a fraction of the cost of purchasing new dedicated equipment, so we should be able to upgrade more cost effectively, when we need to.
“I’d seen the media reports and watched some YouTube videos and even arranged a demo a couple of years ago. We had another demo recently, this time with the Contour deck and it performed extremely well. We use it on tee banks, green surrounds, bunker surrounds and can raise the height of cut to manage the semi-rough. Also, as it has a three-point linkage at the rear, we can mount our Sisis Twin Play with sorrel roller and slitter.
“My main reason for specifying this machine is its slope climbing ability. It’s extremely stable on slopes of up to 30 degrees, making it safe and manoeuvrable, especially on tees. About a third of the course is on a flood plain, so can be quite wet in winter. Because of its light footprint in its eight-wheel configuration we will be able to get out during wet spells without damaging the playing surfaces. I’m also impressed by the Aera-vator attachment, which makes aeration on banks possible, so this might possibly be our next purchase.”
Set in 160 acres of undulating Dorset countryside just outside of Bournemouth, the Donald Steel-designed 6,904-yard, par 71 championship course features nine lakes and is bordered by the river Stour. It has hosted several prestigious events including the PGA Europro Tour, which featured on Sky Sports and the BMW PGA Order of Merit Championship. Warren Moss, who heads a team of six, has been at the club for the past 12 years, the last six as Head Greenkeeper. He started his career at Yeovil Golf Club, where he attended Cannington College and enjoyed a six-month placement in Germany. He was a member of the newbuild/grow-in team at Orchardleigh near Bath in the mid-1990s, where he stayed for 15 years until joining Dudsbury.
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.”
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk (17 May 2021) Royal Norwich, the first ‘Royal’ golf club ever to relocate to a new site, is the latest organisation to appreciate the multiple benefits of Ventrac. Situated on the Weston Estate to the north of Norwich, they recently took delivery of a Ventrac 4500 all-terrain compact tractor in dual-wheel configuration and a Contour mowing deck.
Peter Todd is the highly respected turf manager who, in his role as estate manager and director on the Club’s board, specified the purchase following a demonstration earlier this year. He began his career in 1990 working for Transcontinental Golf Construction, a hands-on role that included constructing the Nicklaus Signature courses at both Gleneagles and then the London Golf Club. He stayed on for the grow-in at the London, rising through the ranks to course manager, and managed the staging of numerous televised tournaments including the Volvo World Match Play Championship 2014 and the European Opens in 2008 and 2009.
“I first met Rupert Price, the owner of the UK Ventrac franchise, at London Golf Club just prior to leaving to take up this appointment,” he said. “I was extremely impressed by it’s all-round capabilities, but as I was leaving to join Royal Norwich, I didn’t think it pertinent to pursue the purchase.
“However, that positive impression stayed with me and I contacted him for another demonstration, so that my new team could see it on our course and have the chance to evaluate it; a structured process of evaluation that we always go through when considering a major cap-ex machinery purchase.
“My primary concern is the safety of my staff when operating equipment, especially on sloping terrain around greens, bunkers and tee surrounds. We demoed machines from the major manufacturers, but none could safely carry out these two prime tasks on the sloping ground.
“The Ventrac is the only machine that can handle the pronounced shaping around the course without scalping. It’s exceptionally stable, especially with its dual-wheel configuration, articulating frame and low centre of gravity. The Contour deck flexes superbly to follow the ground contours and its counter-rotating blades ensure the cuttings are thrown backwards and not on to the greens. Its manoeuvrability around our rectangular tees is exceptional, allowing it to turn through 90 degrees easily and efficiently. What you get is all the attributes of a four-wheel mower with the manoeuvrability of three-wheel machine.
“I also like the out-front set-up of the Ventrac with all the attachments clearly visible to the operator. The 3-point hitch at the back is useful as we can attach drag mats and, because of its very low ground pressure, use it on greens for brushing in top dressing.
“Obviously, mowing slopes in the wet is challenging for most equipment, but this is where the Ventrac excels. However, in dry conditions the grass becomes ‘glassy’ and can be equally slippery, but again, not an issue for this machine.
“We had a demonstration of the Trencher attachment and I can see this being beneficial in soft areas, especially in the autumn and the blower is a definite possibility as we are a parkland course and can get out in the very wet winter and spring conditions that have become a feature of our weather. This is undoubtedly, a very versatile machine.”
The Royal Norwich course at Weston Estate opened on 16th September 2019 with Ryder Cup legend Ian Poulter playing the inaugural round to mark the completion of the 10-year project to create a world-class sporting venue in East Anglia.
The 18-hole genderless course was designed by Ross McMurray of European Golf Design and built by the UK’s leading golf course contractors to the highest industry standards. It is capable of hosting the sport’s leading events in the future. It also includes a 6-hole academy course, built to the same specifications as the main course and designed to both encourage new players into the sport and limit playing time to under an hour; something which has been identified as key to growing engagement in the sport.