Adam Smith, the Head of Grounds and Gardens at Bishop’s Stortford College, has been delighted with the higher level of presentation and the work-hour savings, following the purchase of a Ventrac 4500 all-terrain compact tractor. Supplied through local groundscare dealer, Upsons Mowers, the package initially included a 72-inch rotary mowing deck. Subsequently the College has added a Power Brush attachment.
Adam’s career in the industry has included numerous different roles – first as a mechanical technician with a European groundscare contractor, then as a product demonstrator followed by a sales role with a large regional UK dealer, and a further sales role for Toro in Brisbane. On returning to the UK, he gained more sales experience with a John Deere dealer before a career switch to groundsmanship at nearby Haileybury Imperial College, before joining the Bishop’s Stortford team two years ago.
“Without a doubt the Ventrac has enhanced the overall appearance of our large grassed areas and its ability to mow on 40-degree slopes has cut out hundreds of hours of brush-cutting for the team” he said. “There are only four of us, so every hour is vital. Strimming is such a time-consuming job, but we have now freed up hours that can spent on other important tasks around the facility. It has been a gamechanger.”
“We have some serious banks across the 130 acres and I was looking for a machine that would save us from the hours of brush-cutting. Upsons suggested the Ventrac and, at first, I wasn’t too sure; to be honest it looked a bit ‘Mickey Mouse’, but once we’d had it demo-ed we were immediately won over. Andy Richards came over from Haileybury for the demo and he has bought one as well. We have a good working relationship and, on occasions, lend each other attachments. It’s simple with the Ventrac linkage system, there’s no complicated set up, you just drive out of one and drive in to the next.
“Before the Ventrac we were using a 50hp tractor with a rear-mounted roller mower, but it was so cumbersome with limited maneuverability in tight spaces. We have several outdoor teaching spaces, such as the arboretum, and getting around the trees and outdoor furniture was a major problem. The Ventrac alleviated this immediately as it has a centre-pivot steering system and can turn tightly. Again, this saves many workhours and is much more efficient.
“This has become our front-line machine; its low ground pressure means we can go out at any time, even in some of the very wet areas and you feel really safe on the banks, it’s a machine you can trust. We have a natural spring that rises near our Pre-Prep School and we can’t usually get in there before late May, but with the Ventrac we cut it in February.
“The weight transfer system works well and by turning it down, the striping effect when using the roller deck is excellent. I particularly like the rear three-point linkage. We can hitch up our Sisis brush units and use the Ventrac as the tow vehicle on our synthetic surfaces. It has such a light footprint, much better than a utility vehicle and we can also brush in stripes on our natural surfaces, if required. We also have a ball hitch, so we can attach equipment such as our water bowser or trailers. Its versatility is endless.”
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.”
When Neil Osborne, a partner of the family-owned caravan touring park in St Ives, Cornwall completed his research into the Ventrac package he was considering, it didn’t take long for the local dealer, Devon Garden Machinery (DGM) and the UK distributor, Price Turfcare, to spring into action.
Rob Read of DGM takes up the story:
“It all started with a call from Neil: he had already completed some in-depth research on-line and was looking for prices for a Ventrac tractor unit and a range of attachments. We had a short timescale in which to organise a demo as the end of the financial year was fast approaching.”
“I put in an urgent call to Rupert Price, the UK distributor, and a demo was scheduled for the following Thursday. Rupert, his sales demonstrator Tony Doe and myself arrived at Trevalgan with Ventrac’s 4500 tractor unit, an Aera-vator with overseeder, a Finishing mowing deck, Power Broom and Front Loader and put each attachment through its paces. This enabled Neil to see the versatility, safety and efficiency of the machine.”
“Within a couple of days, we had refined the package and secured the deal, with all the equipment delivered within 10 days of the demonstration.”
Neil Osborne added:
“The main reason I was interested in the Ventrac package was because of the ease of changing the implements safely and quickly on my own. The compact size and manoeuvrability of the machine is ideal for our busy campsite and enables me to get in to all the tight spaces.”
“The overall quality of the machine and implements are excellent. I have been very impressed by the Area-vator as this helps to relieve the compaction of the pitches caused by a five-month season of continual use by tents, caravans and motorhomes. At the end of the season, this versatile implement can also re-seed the pitch at the same time, which makes the Ventrac very time efficient and I have been more than pleased with the end result. “It also works really well to fluff the bark around the play equipment. The mower and broom attachments are regularly used and perform their tasks well. I would not hesitate in recommending Rob from DGM and Price Turfcare and look forward to dealing with them again in the future.”
About Trevalgan Touring Park
Trevalgan is an award-winning, luxury, five-star, family camping and touring park with stunning coastal and countryside views, just two miles from St Ives. The Park, which is owned and run by Neil and Annette Osborne, is surrounded by open farmland, with gorse and heather covered hills behind, and is within walking distance of the rugged and beautiful South West Coast Path.
The latest recognition for the stunning facility was made at the Cornwall Tourism Awards 2021/22, when the park was awarded Camping and Caravanning Park of the Year – Gold.
Brightlingsea Council’s Mayor, Cllr Jane Chapman, was present at the official handover of a Ventrac all-terrain compact tractor and selection of attachments at the north Essex coastal town recently. Delivered by local dealer, Upson Mowers, the equipment will be used for mowing the town’s recreation fields, maintaining local cycle paths and keeping the beach promenade free of sand and other debris.
The ever-versatile compact tractor was specified with a MU rotary mowing deck, a Power Brush and a V-blade, to provide specific solutions for some unique challenges faced by the seaside town’s council.
Cllr. Graham Steady, Portfolio holder for the town’s Western Promenade said,
“We had two demonstrations and on both occasions the council leaders were very impressed, especially with the machine’s versatility. We made a financial commitment to acquire the Ventrac and view it as major step forward in the maintenance of all council-maintained areas. We would like to thank our local dealer, Upsons and Price Turfcare, the UK distributor, for the professional manner in which they conducted the negotiations and demonstration process; they have been superb.”
“We haven’t just purchased a mower; we’ve effectively bought three different machines. During higher- than-average tides, the promenade around the children’s paddling pool can become covered with sand and shingle making it impossible for pushchairs and accessibility buggies to negotiate this area. The V-blade and Power Brush worked exceptionally well during the initial demonstration, clearing the pathway in minutes and it was a very simple decision to include it in the specification.”
Brightlingsea’s Grounds Manager, Terry Hamilton, added,
“We’ve certainly purchased a very versatile piece of kit. We’re replacing an aging triple reel mower with this Ventrac and the MU deck, which provides the same level of finish, so we’re not sacrificing quality or overall presentation. We have two recreation grounds to maintain, one of which is on clay and just above the water table, so can be very wet at certain times of the year. The Ventrac, in its eight-wheel configuration, has an exceptionally low ground pressure of just 6 psi, enabling us to mow, whatever the conditions.”
“We have a single road leading into the town including Church Hill, a steep climb with an acute bend at the top. Essex County Council have built a cycle path alongside the road to mitigate the danger to cyclists. However, it has not been regularly maintained, causing the cyclists to use the road and resulting in frustration for other road users. We have now taken responsibility for this and the Power Broom will be used to keep it debris-free and usable at all times. Another use for the Power Broom is as a scarifier; by setting the brush to a position that’s just tickling the sward, it’s possible to remove thatch build-up.”
“As part of the handover process, Upson Mowers arranged for Tom Stidder of TCS Turfcare Equipment to provide installation and familiarisation training on the day and it was superb. Tom is a turf equipment specialist with a mechanical engineering background and obviously knows the Ventrac machine, inside out. He spent over four hours with us, looking at every aspect of the machine and ensuring that we were completely comfortable with the operation of all the attachments.”
“Brightlingsea is renowned for its fishing, sailing and seaside leisure activities and attracts thousands of visitors during the summer months,” said the Mayor, Cllr. Jane Chapman. “We are proud that our green spaces, especially along the seafront and the approaches to the town, are maintained to high standards and are attractive to our residents and visitors. We could have purchased just a replacement mower, but with this Ventrac we have a multi-tasking machine, delivering best value to the town.”
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.
Returning from a very successful SALTEX show, Rupert Price, managing director of UK importer Price Turfcare, says that Ventrac has now been accepted as a relevant brand in the UK groundscare sector.
“At the end of the first day at the show, we were returning to the hotel and reflecting on the high level of business and number of visitors that we had seen. Honestly, we were sceptical about the possible visitor numbers prior to the show, but were very pleased with the footfall across the stand and the number of demonstration requests received. The discussion with the first visitor set the tone for the day with a demonstration arranged for late November.
“It occurred to us that we were being perceived in a different way than at previous events; we had become an accepted and credible brand in the sector. Instead of having to explain who we were and what the machine could do, we were talking to an audience who had seen it on social media, in the trade press and at events and now understood the benefits that it could bring to their business.
“For me, this change of perception was very pleasing and a testament to the efforts of the small team here at the company. They have worked tirelessly to promote and demonstrate the machine across the UK for the past six years. We have come from nowhere in 2017, when we launched at BTME and with the incredible support of the manufacturer, Venture Products Inc, we have gone from a presence of zero machines to over 200 today. The forward order book is healthy, we are getting regular shipments of machines and are now looking at larger premises for the new year.
“The atmosphere at SALTEX was very positive; people were really pleased to be meeting up with the industry again. It was just a good feeling to see customers, prospects and former colleagues in a positive environment. There were many discussions about supply chain issues, the inevitable price rises that we are all experiencing and the state of the sector, but all-in-all, it demonstrated the robustness of UK groundscare. For us, a great show!”
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.
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.”