Course Maintenance

Toro machinery and Toro the dog at two Peterborough Golf Clubs

The family-managed duo of golf courses, Thorpe Wood Golf Course and Orton Meadows Golf Course in Peterborough, continues its joint ambition to switch to Toro with the arrival of its latest fleet.
Golf is in Simon Fitton’s blood. Not only is he a fourth-generation golf professional, he’s also the third generation of the Fitton family to be managing the two courses. Simon assumed the role of managing director of Nene Golf Ltd, the company managing both sites, in 2010 and has been adding more Toro to the shed on an annual basis – and has also added a rescue dog called Toro to the ranks!
Simon says: “I took over the company from my dad in 2010, but the first Toro arrived a decade before me. Since then, we’ve been on route to becoming all Toro and I foresee that being achieved in three to four years. Every year we switch more out and get one step closer.”

The reason for this, Simon says, is the service from Reesink Turfcare and rep Julian Copping is “surprisingly good” and the quality and reliability from Toro is “sound”.

“I met Julian pretty much as soon as I joined and the relationship was there straight away. It was all good, actually surprisingly good – very natural – and as a result it has easily developed into what it is today. Julian continues to help us sort out what we need and makes the process very easy.”

The machines delivered in this most recent order includes, among others, a Reelmaster 3100-D with Sidewinder, Workman HDX utility vehicle, ProPass 200 topdresser and an ex-demo SandPro 5040, which, with up to 17 attachments all of which can be changed in under a minute, is the perfect addition for two busy clubs. 
So, with the machinery replacement programme taken care of, Simon can concentrate on the recent developments across both courses driven by the changing industry: “We’re already unusual in that we’re a business comprising two courses, in two locations offering our customers two great challenges. But the industry is changing and we’re making updates to both courses to make sure we don’t get left behind. These include a 23-bay covered floodlit driving range, the building of which meant we had to adjust parts of the course to accommodate it, a large putting green by the first tee and a chipping tee by the 10th. Meanwhile, Orton Meadows has an updated 12-hole Pitch and Putt course to introduce more people in the area to the game and provide somewhere for players in the area to perfect their shots.”

With two 18-hole courses and all these new additions to the clubs, it is probably quite a challenging role for Toro? “You’d never notice,” says Simon. “Toro takes everything we throw at it, whether it’s course maintenance or more challenging build projects, in its stride. And you can really notice the difference as we get more Toro – you see how the quality cut, finish and care spreads to cover more of the course.”

So how about Toro the dog, how does he fit into the story? “That’s a story that was just meant to be,” says Simon. “I already had a dog called Welly and although I wasn’t looking for another, I’d heard of a rescue dog that needed a home. His name was Toro and as soon as I saw him I knew he was coming home with me! I don’t know why he was given the name of Toro but it certainly suits us – he arrived and in the same week so did a new arrival of Toro machines!”

Image caption: Simon Fitton, managing director of Nene Golf Ltd, with Toro the dog and latest Toro machines.

Royal Winchester Golf Club invests in Baroness

As a hands-on Head Greenkeeper, Andy Barber does a big slice of the greens cutting at the Royal Winchester Golf Club first thing in the morning. He is usually to be found doing just that from 5.30am over much of the year. More often than not Andy will have walked ten or more miles by the time most of us have had breakfast. To get it all done on a daily basis, one or two other members of his team will do similar distances on foot, or with a vehicle doing some of the leg work. 
The quality and feel of the greens mowers with which they work is, therefore, very important, and it’s a task Andy is very happy to assign to the fleet of six Baroness LM56s the club has acquired over recent years from Lister Wilder. 

 

“I always prefer to hand-cut the greens, and there is no doubt that it achieves a better playing surface,” adds Andy. “When we made the decision to hand-cut, we tried several that are in the market and decided that the Baroness was the best. The guys here all say that it has a nice feel to it with a good balance; lightweight and yet very solid and well-made. We also like the simplicity and the fact that it stays on cut.”
The LM56 is all gear-driven, with no slippage or lag between the drive and the cutting cylinder. It is built for durability and easy maintenance, with no adjustments needed as with other belt or chain drive systems. It also has what is universally recognised as the sharpest cutting cylinder in the market, made with nickel-chrome-molybdenum for extreme long life.
Andy has been with the Royal Winchester for 19 years and says the course, with its majestic views, is now in his blood. “It is a great place to work - for me there is no place better in the early morning light given the views and the wildlife all around,” he says.
“It is a club with a lot of ambition and we have made a number of improvements over the years. We have progressively improved the greens surfaces as well as doing extensive bunker refurbishment, primary drainage, shaping, tee improvements and tree clearance.”

The work is done by a dedicated team of seven in which Andy is one of four long-servers. The others are Deputy Head Greenkeeper Richard Unsworth, First Assistant James Solloway and Mechanic Martin Cooper.
The club was formed 131 years ago and moved to its current site on high ground to the west of Winchester in 1901. The course was set out by former club professional JH Taylor and modified some time later by the legendary Harry Colt. It extends to nearly 6,400 yards from the back tees and plays to a par of 72, with the fairways laid out across rolling downland.
With chalk down below, the course drains exceptionally well, and members are able to enjoy continuous play right through the year. In recent times, golf was halted only by the covering of snow delivered in 2018 by the beast from the east (skiing briefly took over)!
In the next year or so, the club is looking at improvements designed to encourage the modern short game. With the benefit of a Rescue programme that has eliminated coarse grasses, Andy believes the playing surfaces will continually push the boundaries of what already looks to be perfection. The bi-directional front groomers on the Baroness LM56s are very much playing their part in that.
Lister Wilder has also in recent times supplied an ex-hire Kubota L5040 tractor, which is now a totally dependable workhorse, handling tasks ranging from Verti-Draining through to leaf blowing. “It has been a great buy for us,” says Andy. “It has more than enough power for everything we want to do and is so smooth.”

Otterbine brings “substantial difference”to Royal Cinque Ports’ water quality

Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club has recently invested in two Otterbine High Volume aerators to improve the water quality of its reservoir and help prevent stagnant smelling water and weed build up.
The club in Deal, Kent, has a 13,000m3 reservoir, the water from which is used to irrigate the 18-hole Championship Links course, but with no aeration to keep the water clean and clear James Bledge, course manager, was noticing a significant deterioration in water quality.
“The water was starting to turn stagnant and was giving off a strong smell, and there was a considerable amount of weed and algae forming on the bottom of the reservoir,” he explains.

 

To solve the worrying problems the club opted to have two Otterbine aerators installed at the same time as a new Toro irrigation system and a renewal of its Toro fleet, all delivered by distributor Reesink Turfcare. 
The club is a Toro Total Solutions club meaning it has a 100 percent Toro fleet as well as a Toro irrigation system, but that didn’t mean an automatic order for Otterbine, which is also distributed by Reesink Turfcare.
In fact, the Otterbine aerators were suggested by Robin Hume Associates when designing the new irrigation system. With success at similar clubs in the same application, the irrigation design consultancy was confident Otterbine would help to solve the issues at Royal Cinque Ports, and it seems that judgement was right.
“We’re seeing a substantial difference since the installation of the new Otterbine aerators,” says James. “The water doesn’t smell anymore and we’re already seeing an improvement in the water quality.”

The Otterbine High Volume aerator adds an impressive 3.3lbs or 1.5kg of oxygen per horse power, every hour and is constructed from marine-grade, 316 stainless steel, thermoplastics and a rugged, energy efficient, low speed motor to withstand even the toughest of aquatic environments.
But it is not just that which has impressed James, the ease of use of the control system has too: “It’s been set on a timer, so that way it doesn’t disturb any nearby residents and helps us to save on energy.”

The importance the club places on its water quality, sustainability and the technology that it manages, is evident in James’ decision to assign greenkeeper Nick Machin the role of supervising all the irrigation and aeration technology. Coincidentally, Nick happens to be the 2017 winner of the Toro Student Greenkeeper of the Year Award and James feels confident the day-to-day management of the new additions will be in safe hands.

“With the technology we now have at our fingertips and the supervision from Nick, I am confident about the improvements we’ll see in the long term. It will be interesting to see, for example, how the turf benefits from the better-quality water irrigating it.”