Robert Phillips, Course Manager at Sandy Lodge Golf Club, Northwood, Middlesex, is fast approaching his 20th year at the club, just a year shy of a landmark tenure at the highly regarded inland links course. In the business since leaving school, Phillips has spent his life in golf; beginning his apprenticeship at Porters Park Golf Club, Herts, where he climbed the ranks to deputy head, before leaving to join Sandy Lodge as Course Manager in 1995.
"When I joined, the course had drifted away from what it had historically been known for: as an excellent inland links course," explains Phillips. "The course had been mown very short, had become a little swamped with trees and had lost a bit of character as a result. We're very lucky where we are, sitting on sand, not London clay, which offers golfers a unique links/heathland environment.
"We've worked hard to bring the inland links feel back to life, clearing large amounts of overgrown woodland and reinstating the open feel that our members and visitors enjoy."
Sandy Lodge is one of the fortunate minority that remained strong and enjoyed growth throughout the recession, with the prized ten-strong groundcare team - seven full-time, two part-time, one apprentice - key to the progression and improvement of the course in the last decade.
Investment across the board continued during tough times, with the club's commitment to give Phillips the tools he needed to make the club's biggest asset - the course - as good as it could be. Armed with a healthy machinery budget, the shed is packed with a mix of brand new machines and more historic workhorses. Phillips' preference is evident by the trademark bright orange paint that greets you at the entrance of the shed.
Tractor and groundcare specialists, Kubota, has been a key part of the groundcare team's arsenal for over two decades, before Phillips' time. "When I joined we had an old B Series tractor, which was still going strong despite its years," he explains, "I have always used and trusted Kubota tractors and since the early '90s I've never needed to look elsewhere.
"We had a few Kubota machines at Porters Park, just as they were rising in prominence and popularity in the industry in the early '90s. I simply wouldn't buy anything else now; the quality of build, engine and power transfer are second to none in the compact and mid-range tractors market. Basically, if you need a tractor that's pulling attachments you need a lot of torque; Kubota never let you down."
Phillips' has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with local Kubota dealer, George Browns, a company he holds in high regard: "Browns are very well respected in this area; they stand head and shoulders above the competition in terms of excellent sales and after sales service," he explains.
"They've been a Kubota dealer for many years now so they know the products inside out and what parts and spares are most in demand, which means the turn around on repairs is rapid. You need to rely on your local dealer to offer expert advice and guidance. Neither George Browns, nor Kubota, have let us down once in over 20 years of dealing with them."
With a carefully planned programme of machinery investment key to the smooth operation of the groundcare duties, making the right purchase, based on quality alone and not any preferred supplier deal, is vital. Top of the list for Phillips is a new Kubota F Series out-front mower, to replace his existing F80 model, which is fast approaching its tenth year in operation.
"Kubota's F Series is one of the best bits of kit we've ever bought. There's simply nothing on the market with the front deck power to match it; it's quite staggering what it can do. We've had it for over eight years now and it's still in excellent condition. It's used for mowing semi rough and clearing tricky areas, primarily the gorse populated zones. We use a Flail Deck attachment, which is specifically designed for this model."
The myriad machines on show in the shed is proof enough that Phillips purchases based on quality and practicality alone. Six Kubota models are currently in use, including the eight-year old F80, three STV40 compact tractors and the elder statesman of the group - the L3600, which was the first tractor Phillips purchased.
"Whilst we have a very supportive committee, who understand the need to buy the best machinery, we still have to be savvy, and with Kubota reliability is one of the major pluses. Across our whole Kubota fleet we've had no issues with any of the model and, where the F Series is concerned, we've delayed buying a newer model several times because the existing one is still performing excellently."
The drop in value of some mowers, specifically rotary models, is well documented and the significant depreciation in value can have a big impact on buying patterns. "A strong re-sale value is another of Kubota's strengths," reveals Phillips. "Kubota's compact tractors are very sought after in the second hand market, and as such they hold their value well. Even for our L3600, we'll still expect to get £2,000-3,000 trade in for it when we upgrade. You simply don't get the same return on any other tractor."
While the trademark Kubota orange doesn't visibly dominate Robert's entire fleet, Kubota craftsmanship still reigns supreme, as Kubota engines are under the hood of nearly all of Phillips' fleet of machines.
Kubota's diesel engines are the most highly regarded on the market, prized for their superior quality, reliability and robustness: "If a machine comes with a Kubota engine then we know it'll have very few problems. Every machine we have here is powered by Kubota and as a result it's a rare occurrence for any issues to arise with our engines. In fact, I don't think I've had one cause for complaint in all my time in the business, which is all the proof you need of Kubota's quality; it's unrivalled."
For more information on Kubota and its extensive range of solutions for the groundcare and agriculture sectors visit www.kubota.co.uk or call 01844 268000.