New fleet gives The Blackwood a boost

Steve Mitchellin Machinery & Mechanics

A switch in management policies at one of Northern Ireland's leading golf clubs has resulted in a major £160,000 investment in new John Deere course maintenance equipment.

(Left to right) The Blackwood Golf Centre course manager Jonny Eager, John Deere dealer Johnston Gilpin & Co groundscare sales manager Ricky Neill and The Blackwood's consultant manager Paul Gray

The Blackwood Golf Centre is situated in the heart of the Clandeboye Estate's beautiful parklands, just at the top of the Ards Peninsula in County Down. Extending to 240ha, the club runs two 18-hole courses including the par 54 Temple and the par 71 championship Hamilton, plus a 26-bay floodlit driving range, putting green and short game area.

Historically the club has predominantly used John Deere machines, but some of the fleet had been faithful workhorses for the past 18 years and so were becoming quite aged. Last August the club underwent some fundamental changes, which included enlisting the help of independent golf management consultant Paul Gray, who has taken on the contract to manage the club.

One of Paul's first changes was to upgrade the John Deere equipment fleet, directly liaising with course manager Jonny Eager and Ricky Neill, sales manager at the local John Deere turf dealer Johnston Gilpin & Co Ltd.

With the help of a five-year John Deere Financial package, the club bought a John Deere 8900A PrecisionCut fairway mower, 2500E hybrid electric greens triplex mower, 2653B PrecisionCut tees & surrounds triplex mower and two TH 6x4 Gator utility vehicles. Also included in the purchase were a Trimax Snake articulating rotary mower and a Buffalo debris blower.

Course manager Jonny Eager is very pleased with the new fleet and says the machines have boosted production and efficiency. "We have been using John Deere machines at The Blackwood since 2003 and have always found them very reliable and easy to use.

"With this new deal we replaced two of our older Gators with the TH 6x4s, while the rest of the machines are additions to the fleet, which now consists of 12 John Deere machines in total. They do a great job and the backup we receive from the dealer is first class. All round we think they represent longevity and good value for money."

Blackwood Golf Centre consultant manager Paul Gray adds: "Machinery replacement in the past had been fairly neglected here, so one of the first changes I made was to embark on a new replacement programme, starting with this financed machinery purchase deal.

"Since changing to the new machines this season, members have been full of praise for how the courses look and play. Given the difficult spring we had in terms of weather, the members have really complimented the staff for the excellent conditions the courses are in."

"Part of the deal included full training for The Blackwood's own mechanic, who came up to the dealership and spent some time with one of our technicians to learn how all the machines are assembled, used and operated," explains Ricky Neill.

"We are very keen for the greenkeeping team to carry out all their own regular servicing and maintenance, with support from our expert technicians should they require it. Our dealership at Lisburn has had a good relationship over the years with The Blackwood Golf Centre, and we are here to assist them with any future machinery requirements as the club develops."