McCormick Compact helps Norfolk driving range revival
A friendly welcome, some tidy facilities and investment in more effective groundcare machinery has helped transform the Fakenham driving range in Norfolk into a popular place for golfers to practice their strokes.
Des and Vera French bought the ailing facility two years ago and are turning it around using the energy, enthusiasm and good business sense they previously put into a thriving cleaning business before retiring just over seven years ago.
"We travelled throughout Europe and the United States after that," says Des. "But when we heard the range was for sale during a visit to our daughter and family in Fakenham, we couldn't resist the challenge."
Apart from improving the clubhouse catering facilities, stocking the shop with decent quality golfing gear and replacing the driving mats, Des and Vera put their hard earned cash into groundcare machinery that would improve the parlous condition of the range and adjoining nine-hole par three pitch and putt course.
"The range had become terribly weedy and there were no clearly defined fairways on the course," notes Des. "It's taken a lot of work getting everything straight but we're about there now."
Most of the equipment, such as the ride-on and walk-behind mowers, was bought second hand but one item - the McCormick compact tractor - was bought new as it was felt this would probably be one of the hardest worked machines. And so it has proved.
"The tractor's used every day, chain harrowing, spiking, carrying a link box with a hand mower and spiker on board, and collecting several thousand golf balls after customers have enjoyed the range," says Des. "I've been familiar with tractors since I was 9yrs old on my Grandfather's farm in Devon and this is a great little tractor."
The McCormick GM40 is the smallest of a three-model range of basic compact tractors. It has 37.5hp from its three-cylinder Yanmar engine, four-wheel drive and a creep gearbox with 16 speeds in forward and reverse, including very low ratios for specialist work.
Implements carried on the 1200kg capacity rear three-point linkage can be driven by the tractor's independent power take-off, which turns the power shaft at 540rpm at two different engine speeds - one for full power, the other for greater fuel economy and lower noise levels. Alternatively, operators can use the ground-drive pto, which links forward speed to application rate when using certain trailed top-dressers.
Des French commissioned a heavy duty plastic tarpaulin cover to protect the driver - not so much from the elements as from the golf balls when a particularly busy period demands that used balls are scooped up as play continues!
Having come out of retirement to take on the driving range, the couple are determined to see their second venture bloom as successfully as their first.
"People are coming back," says Vera. "We're open every day except Christmas day and we have regulars driving 20 miles from surrounding towns and villages to visit us. We're also picking up more trade from people on holiday in the area."
It's a full-time commitment and one that continues to grow - a 25-place touring caravan site is now up and running with plans for permanent facilities in the pipeline. Des and Vera French, it seems, are simply not the retiring type!
IMG_0480.jpg Des French loads a mower into the link box on his 37.5hp McCormick GM40 compact tractor at Fakenham Golf Driving Range.
IMG_0492.jpg Collecting used golf balls is another of the daily tasks handled by the McCormick GM40 compact tractor at Fakenham Golf Driving Range.
IMG_0487.jpg "It's nice to drive and there are no complicated features," says Des French of the McCormick GM40 compact tractor he uses at Fakenham Golf Driving Range.
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Vikky Morley - Communications Manager Tel: 01302-733393
McCormick Tractors International Ltd Fax: 01302-733491