Greenkeepers and industry press were invited to Crocodile Golf Products factory to see for themselves how one of the last remaining Midlands steel manufacturers, based in Wolverhampton, are developing a range of new golf products to accompany their long established replacement rotary grass and turfcare products.
Originally manufacturers of sugar cane harvesting knives and agricultural harvesting tools since 1874, the company have adapted the same 'cutting edge' technology to develop a range of cylinder mower blades and bottom blades for major mowing machine manufacturers, including Hayter, Dennis and Lloyds.
They have recently expanded this range to include replacement cylinders and bottom blades that are specifically designed to fit a variety of the most popular commercial mowing machines, including John Deere, Jacobsen and Toro.
In addition, the company's latest venture is the manufacture of a range of agronomy tools - soil samplers - and a golf hole cutter to help greenkeepers and groundsmen monitor the performance of their sward and soil profiles.
The day began with a short presentation by Managing Director, Ian Marshall, relating the history of the company and why they moved into the design and manufacture of golf related products under the banner of Crocodile Golf Products.
The company had recognised that many golf courses were looking to save money, especially in the current economic climate, and were in the market for quality replacement parts to extend the life of existing machinery. The global market for 'golf-type' cutting blades is represented by well over 50,000 golf courses worldwide, of which nearly 3,000 are in the U.K .
The group then went on a factory tour to see the manufacturing process from start to finish.
The cylinder spirals and the bottom blades are made from either high quality carbon, boron or silicon-manganese spring steels, rolled in the company's own hot-rolling mill, which is situated in nearby Willenhall and regarded as one of the most modern and technologically advanced hot-rolling mills in Europe.
The bottom blades are then completely through-hardened to 45 to 50 HRC, before being precision ground to give a variety of cutting heights, ranging from 13mm on the fairways to 1.5mm for fine turf areas around tees and greens.
With the company accredited to ISO 9002 total quality management systems, they operate a robust inspection system throughout every phase of manufacture, checking components at various stages of production.
The attention to detail and build quality was good to see, especially as there are very few UK manufacturers able to process a product from raw material to finished product.
With the skills and resources at their disposal, Crocodile Golf Products look set to have a healthy future and, I'm sure, there will be many other products rolling off the production line over the coming years.