A unique package is now on offer at Lingfield Park Racecourse in Surrey - a round of golf on what is soon to be a PGA championship course, an afternoon or evening at the races, live entertainment after the racing and luxurious accommodation in a Marriott spa hotel.
Estate manager Jon Harris says that racing and golf have always co-existed happily at Lingfield, part of the Arena Leisure Group, which has a preferred supplier partnership agreement with John Deere to supply all of its seven racecourses.
The recent development of a Marriott hotel on the site and the challenge to develop and run the golf course to Marriott standards has justified investment to the tune of £235,000 in John Deere machinery over the last 18 months, supplied by John Deere dealer Godfreys of Sevenoaks. This has strengthened the equipment armoury available to both the racecourse and greenkeeping teams.
Standards on the golf course have to match those used throughout the Marriott group of country clubs. Head greenkeeper Kevin Weller, who heads a team of eight greens staff, undertakes a monthly audit of everything, from the course to the machinery and the playing conditions, to ensure that they stay that way. The high standards have already reaped rewards - in August, Lingfield Park is to host a round of the PGA Euro Tour, with John Deere providing back-up machinery throughout the tournament.
"We have made a lot of changes, and the high specification of John Deere machinery helps us to meet the more demanding workload involved with a busier course - whether that is lighting kits for earlier starts or mowers that can cut cleanly in heavy dew," says Kevin.
"We have moved away from cylinder mowers for surrounds, for example, opting for a 7400 TerrainCut rotary, which performs much better on banks and in tighter areas as well as giving an improved finish. It also complements the 1600T wide area mower used for the semi-roughs - in winter both machines are adjusted to the same height for easier management on our clay soils, and in spring when we need to differentiate between the areas, it is easy to take the cut height down on the 7400."
The QuickAdjust (QA) cutting units on the greens mowers are also picked out for praise, for their ease of use and adjustment. In addition, Lingfield's new HPX Gator 4x4 utility vehicles proved an instant hit, with Jon commenting that the snow blade attachment paid for itself within a day during the winter freeze.
Updates have also been made to the machinery fleet on the racecourse, where head groundsman Nick Bridgland heads a team of seven plus two mechanics.
With a total of 10 tractors used for tasks ranging from cutting grass and maintaining jumps on the National Hunt course to harrowing the all-weather track, an important purchase was a new 5070M 70hp tractor, which is used with Lloyds gang mowers. "We are mowing almost constantly in the growing season, so the tractor will do a lot of hours," says Nick.
Another new HPX Gator is dedicated mainly to the gardens around the grandstands and enclosures, but is also deployed elsewhere on site as required. "They are brilliant machines - they can be used for so many different tasks," adds Jon. "We'll be swapping all our utility vehicles to Gators eventually."
Photo caption:-Lingfield Park estate manager Jon Harris with the racecourse and greenkeeping teams and their John Deere machinery fleet.