Founded in 1935 and considered one of the finest examples of heathland golf in the UK, Enville Golf Club near Stourbridge features the 18-hole Highgate and Lodge courses, with the former being used by the R&A in recent years for Regional Open Qualifying tournaments. It has also recently been announced that Enville will host the R&A Girls' U16 Amateur Championship for the first time, for three years from April 2021.
Enville Golf Club course manager Andy Wood (front right with Leo), dealer Jacob Shellis of Farol and the greenkeeping team, with their new John Deere course maintenance equipment fleet
Enville's course manager Andy Wood, who has been at the club for nearly three years, was previously at Robin Hood, Cosby and The Belfry Golf Clubs, so he knows his local dealer Farol Ltd well and has been using John Deere course maintenance equipment for over 20 years.
His avowed ambition is to produce two of the best courses in the Midlands for Enville's members, guests and visitors, and in so doing to try to get the club as high as possible up the list of the top 100 golf clubs in England. The club has also invited five top golf course architects to tender for a master plan to take the course to the next level over the next five to 10 years. As part of this process, Andy has overseen a policy change to reduce the club's reliance on capital purchases of new machinery with no real structured plan in place, other than a rolling programme with kit coming off operating leases needing replacement each year.
"I just felt that this was not a very sensible approach, for budgeting purposes in particular," says Andy. "The club could be spending £50,000 one year and £100,000 the next, and this did not suit budgeting over a longer period. We therefore agreed a new budget for the next five to 10 years, combining a shorter operating lease for new mowers with a longer finance lease arrangement for the likes of tractors, which have a longer life expectancy, so that the club's capital spend would be significantly reduced."
All the main manufacturers were invited to tender for the demonstration and supply of individual machines for year one, including tractors, utility vehicles, leaf collectors and aerators, followed in year two by the cutting equipment. Each range was tested to see what fitted the courses' and Andy's needs best, followed by an assessment of service back-up and support, including product warranties, once the decisions on the choice of kit had been made.
"John Deere and Farol, with dealer salesman Jacob Shellis leading the way, ticked all the boxes," says Andy. "Things like cut quality should be a given at this level. More important is that should any problems or issues arise, they get dealt with straight away and we're not left stranded with broken down machines and unnecessary downtime.
"For me, it's always been about building a good, sound relationship and trust in the supplier, its products and the dealer, and that people deliver on their promises, especially through the tender process. Farol has always supported me very well on the service side with warranty claims, tournament support, training programmes and the like. The John Deere Financial package was very favourable too, with competitive rates.
"With this new deal we've managed to rationalise the fleet and every bit of kit does the job I need it to. We've gone down from 122 machines and auxiliary pieces of equipment when I first came to 94, and we've saved on a lot of labour, time and repair costs. Among other things this has enabled us to invest £40,000 in a new machinery shed and a new seed and fertiliser store, so we've now got enough room to keep all the main kit and supplies secure and under cover.
"Being a heathland course built on very sandy soils, we're fortunate in that we can stay open all year round and work on the course at any time of the year," Andy adds. "This makes life a bit easier in the winter, but it also means that we require a good irrigation system in the spring and summer months, something the club also invested in last year.
"One of the most encouraging things has been our record income in 2019 from green fees, which is a great sign that things are moving in the right direction. Enville's always had a good reputation, but hopefully the machinery, agronomic and other changes we've been making to the course over the last couple of years have contributed to this increase."