A Dennis FT430 mower has proved an instant hit at Hollyfields Bowls Club in the West Midlands, where players have remarked on its improved playing surface in its first season of use.
Hollyfields Bowls Club has an interesting history: bowls players from the Dunlop Tyre Factory at Erdington moved to the ground in 1998 when their own facility was lost during the company's rationalisation. The club had been run by former British Gas workers, but had recently been disbanded, so fortuitously the green was ready for new custodians.
"The green just needed cutting and preparing for play, so we were lucky to find it," says head greenkeeper James Bowyer.
The club had an old mower brought from the Dunlop ground and last year purchased a budget machine, but a grant from Sport England meant that James could secure his ideal mower, the Dennis FT430.
"My Assistant Chris and I saw the mower at a bowls seminar and we were immediately impressed," he explains. "We knew it was the right machine for the club and our Chairman, William Coleing and I prepared an application for the funding to purchase it."
The Sport England grant, funded by the National Lottery recognised the club's contribution as a community sports facility, and was a real blessing for the committee.
The 43cm (17in) cylinder mower utilises Dennis's renowned cassette system, allowing 11 different tools to be fitted and making it an all round bowling green maintenance tool.
"I'm delighted with the ease of use," says James. "It takes 30 seconds to change the cassettes and I have been able to use a range of tools to improve the green."
The FT430 was purchased with a scarifying blade for removing thatch and debris to encourage vigorous growth, while the sorrel roller cassette has been invaluable through the dry spring to get any available moisture down into the surface. But it is the verticutter that has seen the most dramatic results.
"It has really helped to speed the green up, and members are very impressed with the quality of play," he explains. "Verticutting helps to stand the grass up and makes the green less heavy, so it gives a much better game."
From humble beginnings, this is a club that is going places - chairman's daughter Sarah Coleing plays for Warwickshire and Worcestershire Ladies.
With play taking place virtually every day in peak season - from community use by a local over-60s group to men's and ladies' team training and matches - efficient, quality cutting is vital.
"The FT430 is specified with a nine-blade cutting reel," comments James. "which produces a high quality cut, better than our other 12-blade reel machines."
James says that he couldn't imagine life without the mower now, and that he finds it extremely comfortable to use.
"It takes an hour to cut the green, but with the operator friendly handlebars and anti-vibration design, it never feels like it. Our other machines are heavy and uncomfortable by comparison."
Even with the grant, a top quality mower was a major investment for Hollyfields Bowls Club, but James expects it to last a long time.
"You can tell it is a quality machine, it is really solidly built. I believe that if you look after machines they will look after you, and I do take care to clean the blades and brush grass off it after use. But even that is a breeze as it is so easy to access for maintenance. They say that you get what you pay for and the Dennis FT430 is an excellent example of that."
Dennis, Howardson Works, Ashbourne Road, Kirk Langley, Derby DE6 4NJ UK
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