Billy McLachlan, course manager at Royal Troon Golf Club, and his 15-strong greenkeeping team will see the culmination of two years' preparatory work on the course and greens this July, when the Ayrshire club hosts the 145th Open Championship - the ninth time the event has been held at Royal Troon. The work has included specification changes to all the Old Course greens.
"We've adjusted the top dressing programme to firm them up as much as we can," explains Billy McLachlan, who has been at Royal Troon for 35 years, the past 22 as course manager. His brother John doubles as co-deputy course manager and mechanic, working alongside co-deputy Gary Ross.
Continuing its close relationship with John Deere and dealer Nairn Brown at Busby, Glasgow, the club has bought five new 220SL walk-behind greens mowers and a new 2653B ride-on triplex cylinder mower as the latest additions to its fleet of course maintenance equipment. The 220SL walk-behinds replaced a similar number of older 220C models, while the 2653B complements a 12-year old model that is still going strong. Royal Troon also runs John Deere compact tractors.
"We've been using the 220 walk-behinds for the past 12 years, going back to the B Series models, and the latest SLs are part of our rolling machinery replacement policy," says Billy McLachlan. "The staff think they are the best walk-behind, as does my brother John, who does all the setting up on the mowers.
"The 220SL's 22 inch width suits us, even on the smaller 9th and 8th greens," (the famous Postage Stamp, the shortest hole in championship golf, with no safe way to play it; don't hit the green and the ball is in trouble!) "They will be used to cut all the greens before and during the Championship.
"The height of cut adjustment is quick and precise, and we've reduced the height of cut from 3.5 to 3.4mm; even that small amount makes a difference and enables us to treat the greens according to the conditions. In the past we have reduced cutting frequency and increased rolling; it all depends on what the weather sends."
The new 2653B represents the third generation of this popular ride-on cylinder mower used at Royal Troon. "They have improved the quality and stand on the surrounds," says Billy McLachlan. "Our John Deere 8000E five-gang hybrid electric machines normally cut the surrounds and for the Open we are going to try and cut the fairways with them as well.
"We've introduced a policy of cutting the 'outer surrounds' to the same height, which will be done with the 2653Bs, as they give a good finish and can handle the slopes. They will also be used on the practice tees and on the Portland and par three courses. Having two of these mowers also gives us a back-up; I always like to have a back-up.
"We have stayed with John Deere as if the staff like a machine, then that's what we have. But it is not just the product, it is the whole package, which includes the extremely efficient support that Nairn Brown and sales manager Graham Stewart, and John Deere, provide."
Supplying Billy McLachlan and his greens staff with the machines to present Royal Troon's 6591m (7208 yards), par 71 Old Course at its best for the Open and maintain it for the duration of the Championship is not Nairn Brown and John Deere's only association with the event. They will also be providing additional tournament support in the form of Gator utility vehicles and additional 8000E hybrid electric ride-on mowers.
"We'll have six 8000Es for the fairways and surrounds, with the intention that they will all be cutting to the same height," says Billy McLachlan. "The only problem will be how we physically set out to do it!"