Originally designed by Old Tom Morris, Ladybank Golf Club is a rare thing in Fife, enjoying as it does a reputation as one of the finest inland layouts in Scotland and providing a classic heathland test to lovers of golf away from the sea.
Recently ranked #2 in Great Britain's Top 100 Courses under £100 by National Club Golfer magazine, Ladybank is established on the Fife Open Championship Qualifying Trail, and has hosted final qualifying on seven occasions since 1978 for the Open Championship played at St Andrews. It was also a qualifying venue in July for this year's Senior Open Championship on the Old Course.
Managing secretary Gordon Simpson joined the club over two years ago and carried out a comprehensive assessment of the whole club and course set-up. He knew the course and its quality from playing regularly in qualifying tournaments as a PGA professional, and immediately recognised that the combination of an ageing machinery fleet and increasing repair bills meant a replacement policy needed to be implemented.
Gordon therefore asked the six-strong greenkeeping team led by course manager Colin Powrie and head greenkeeper David Gray to put together a wish list of new machinery from scratch, that would help them to maintain the golf course to the required high standard. As a result, the club has made its first ever John Deere fleet purchase, with equipment supplied by John Deere dealer Double A of Cupar in Fife.
The new machines include a 7500A fairway mower with TechControl display and smaller QA5 cutting units, a 4049R compact tractor, a Pro Gator utility vehicle equipped with an HD200 low-profile amenity turf sprayer and two 220SL walk-behind greens mowers.
"We conducted the usual tender process and gave the different manufacturers a list of the priority kit we required to replace the older machines," says Gordon. "Double A and the dealership's golf specialist John Bateson were superb throughout the process, both in supplying demonstration machines throughout 2017 and in their overall level of service, support and advice to help us develop the golf course in the way we wished.
"The process was admittedly a lengthy one but the ongoing feedback we had from the membership was invaluable to me in the decision-making process, particularly with regard to the high levels of presentation and finish right across the course. This ultimately showed us that the quality of cut from the John Deere machines was far superior and sharper looking."
"We have quite undulating fairways, so the smaller QA5 cutting units on the fairway mower suit our terrain very well by getting easily into the dips and hollows," adds Colin Powrie. "The new hand mowers are used on the 1st and 18th tees and the collars, so these are now nicely striped up for better presentation."
Gordon Simpson admits John Deere would not have been his original number one choice, having never done a deal with the company before in his previous roles. However, he is now happy to state that everything the club experienced over the 20-month process of choosing a new supplier proved that he wanted to partner with John Deere as a brand and Double A as a local business.
"With the volume of kit that had to be replaced, it was always the case that the club would need to spread the investment over several years to make it more manageable," says Gordon. "With all the work they put into the tender, John Deere and Double A simply stood out a mile, and we knew this was the manufacturer and dealer we wanted to partner with.
"We were looking for a long-term relationship with our supplier, which is why it took us so long to make the decision, but we certainly feel that we've picked the right route for us and our ambitions for the club."