Working with a small, tight-knit greenkeeping team, course manager Dale Hand maintains both Aylesbury Park Golf Club in Buckinghamshire and Clandon Golf in Surrey, one of which has been shaped specifically to suit the John Deere mowers he uses, as supplied by dealer Farol.
Fifty miles apart, the two 18-hole courses, co-owned by PGA professional Geoff Legouix, have streamlined their operations in a novel and effective way to capitalise on the equipment and machinery they manage, limit downtime and rationalise staff training. It's a model in which other courses may see some merit, Dale believes.
The commitment to delivering quality golf courses to a tightly controlled budget is the basis of a management approach that makes the most of available resources, exemplified by the John Deere machinery operating at, and often shared by, both sites.
"Presentation is everything, and even with the resources we have, the standard at both courses is pretty high," says Dale. A John Deere 1600T rotary mower is used for the semi-rough and a 7700 cylinder mower cuts the fairways at Aylesbury; each course also doubles up with 2500A greens and 2653B utility triplex cylinder mowers from preferred supplier John Deere, in part to allow units to be moved between sites when necessary. Aylesbury also runs an extra 2500B greens mower.
"If Clandon's 2500A or 2653B needs servicing, we deliver it to Aylesbury, where all the maintenance is done, then bring one of their machines back with us so there's no downtime," Dale explains. The same is true for the greens team. "When we have a big job on at one site or the other that needs more manpower, we can ferry staff across to ensure the work gets done.
"As we have John Deere kit at both sites, the team know the machines inside out and can switch from one site or machine to another when needed. This adds another dimension to our levels of efficiency by saving a load of time training people up on different makes."
Rotary mowers are also heavily used at both sites, says Dale. "Rotaries were once used just for cutting the rough, but the quality has come a long way. We use a John Deere 7400 TerrainCut on Clandon's tee banks and around the tees, plus the banks around the greens. In fact the contours of the tees were created to cater for the machine and they all have similar angles. It tackles steep banks with no problem, while rollers prevent scalping around the bunkers and it also leaves stripes where required.
"When it needs maintaining, the 7400 is also compact enough to fit on the trailer and we take it to Aylesbury. And its rotary blades are cheap and simple to replace - if a cylinder mower hit a flint, which we have in the chalk substrate at Clandon, we'd be in trouble. We certainly push this machine to its limits, that's for sure," adds Dale.
The 7400 is used at the start of the growing season too. "Different grasses grow at different rates, so we use the 7400, set to its lowest height of cut, to mark out the fairways - it's particularly good at taking out the grass stalks at certain times of year, while the rollers leave a quality finish."
Maximising machinery resources doesn't end there. Fescues were specified across Clandon to fit the soil conditions, and have the benefit of limiting growth compared to some other grasses, explains Geoff Legouix - perhaps one reason why Dale Hand, unusually, prefers to mow the fairways here with the 2653B utility mower, which is also used to cut the tops of the tees.
However, as Geoff confirms: "We find that using one machine to cut fairways, tees and approaches works for us. It was always our intention to make Clandon maintenance friendly, and John Deere's rapid response on parts delivery helps there too. We want to own and operate the least number of machines possible to give quality results, which can do, if possible, more than one task and are reliable - and John Deere's machines fit that bill."