0 A championship choice

Royal Troon 8000E ACourse manager Billy McLachlan and his greenkeeping team have an extremely busy year ahead of them at Royal Troon Golf Course on the Firth of Clyde in 2014.

The Old Course is undergoing more renovation and redesign work this winter than it has ever experienced before, including changes required in preparation for its next Open Championship in 2016.

The work includes moving the 15th fairway, a new bunker at the 7th, reshaping the surrounds at the 6th, and changes to the 9th green, 10th tee and the 11th hole, plus specification changes to all the greens for The Open. As Billy McLachlan explains, "They are the softest greens of all the Open courses, but we also have the wettest climate here - just last winter we had to adjust the top dressing programme to firm up the greens as much as possible."

The club has bought two new John Deere 8000E five-gang hybrid electric machines from dealer Nairn Brown at Busby in Glasgow - who celebrate their 50th anniversary as a machinery dealership this year - as the latest additions to its course maintenance fleet, for use as tees and surrounds mowers across the club's three courses.

An older 2653B was traded in for the first of the new three-wheel mowers, and another 2653B has been retained for use on different areas when necessary.

Royal Troon also runs a dozen John Deere walk-behind greens mowers, and two 4000 Series compact tractors - a 4320 equipped with a front loader and eHydro transmission, which is regularly used for aeration work with a Weidenmann spiker, and a 4200 that is still going strong after 12 years' service.

"We employ a rolling machinery replacement programme based on a five or 10 year agreement, depending on the machines," says Billy McLachlan. "The basic approach is to have as much flexibility in the budget as possible, so that key purchases can be made as and when necessary.

Another key aspect is that if the greens staff like a machine, and it does the job, then that's what we have - I don't want to tell them what to use, so I like to give them the choice.

"We've used two generations of the 2653 mower for the past decade or so, and they've done the job well. However, we find the 8000E gives a superior cut and a really good finish, and it's very easy to use.

As a result of bringing in these new mowers and after a bit of experimenting with different cutting heights, we've dropped it from 8mm to 7mm, and now it's a case of adjusting the surrounds to suit the machine, rather than the other way round.

"The 8000E has a smaller cylinder, with 18in wide QA5 cutting units versus the 2653's 26in triplex heads, but also gives us a wider 80-inch cut overall. The ball joint design means it follows the contours a lot better too, so we get a closer cut and the mower can get into tighter areas more easily.

"The electric drives have not given us any bother either, even in our prevailing weather conditions," adds Billy McLachlan. "This is due as much to our brilliant mechanic David McLelland, who carries out all our maintenance and does a really first class job, as to the fantastic service we get from our local John Deere dealer Nairn Brown, and salesman Graham Stewart. We really can't fault anything they do, and if there's ever any problem at all it's always sorted out in double quick time."


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