Deere roam Blackheath once more

Steve Mitchellin Machinery & Mechanics

Royal Blackheath Golf Club in Eltham, south east London, has returned to the John Deere stable after signing a five-year package deal with Farol Ltd of Twyford in Berkshire for a new fleet of course maintenance equipment.

Royal Blackheath golf course manager Allen Blizzard (front centre) with Dave Searles of John Deere dealer Farol (front left) and greens staff (left to right) Leigh Ashenden, Jay Innes, Kevin Finch and apprentices Lewis Morris & Joe Faulks

A total of 11 new machines have been acquired under the John Deere Financial operating lease deal. These include three 2500E hybrid electric greens mowers, for use on both greens and tees, two 7700A PrecisionCut fairway mowers, an 8800A Terrain Cut semi-rough mower, a 1600T wide area mower for the main rough areas, and three TH 6x4 diesel plus one TX Turf 4x2 petrol Gator utility vehicles. These join a number of older Deere machines bought in previous deals that date back to the early 2000s, including compact tractors.

Instituted in 1608 by the court of King James I, Royal Blackheath is one of the oldest golf clubs in the world, with a 17th century clubhouse and records showing that members originally played on Blackheath itself, adjacent to Greenwich Park. The golf course has been extensively remodelled over the past six years, with all the bunkers being redesigned and renovated, many tee complexes reconstructed, and also many ditches and ditch banks reshaped.

"We're looking forward to a major course relaunch in 2020, so it's going to be a big year for us," says golf course manager Allen Blizzard, who leads a team of five greenkeepers plus two Hadlow College apprentices. "A lot of the bunkers had become a bit of a mismatch over the years, and we wanted to go back to James Braid's original design, with fewer trees, more open aspects around the course and more, longer rough grass.

"Alongside this, the club secretary Mark Hickson and I had a good look around at the latest golf course maintenance equipment, to see what the market had to offer. We've always had a good relationship over the past couple of decades with John Deere's turf dealers, and Dave Searles of Farol came up with the right package that was also very competitive financially.

"We've found over the years that an operating lease works very well for us, plus their dealer and manufacturer back-up, after-sales service and support have always been excellent. I've always felt that John Deere machines suit our needs well, especially for precision mowing - they're great for following the contours of the course to provide a first class finish.

"I also think that Deere's rotary mowers are the best I've ever used," says Allen. "They're comfortable to operate, reliable and time efficient. With other machines we've had to use a tractor and blower to tidy up the mess left by clippings, which made it a two-man job. With 125 acres to cover, and all the extra reconstruction work we've had to do, we need to make the most of our available manpower.

"This has also been our first experience with John Deere's latest A Model TechControl and QA cutting unit technology, which helps us be even more productive. From my point of view the new machinery fleet, especially the semi-rough mower, really suits our needs and the golf course is looking in really good shape."