One of the fairest of the Open Championship courses is how Muirfield is often described, and everyone at The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers is eagerly anticipating the staging of the 16th Open Championship at Muirfield in July 2013.
Muirfield's course manager Colin Irvine aims to achieve the perfect fine balance between past, present and future. "We're aware of the history of the course, but what we're trying to do here is constantly refine its qualities and its wonderful natural features," he says. "There aren't just signature holes at Muirfield - it's a signature course.
"It's also important to keep up with technology to make our presentation the best we can, using the aids that are out there. We're therefore always looking out for the best machine to do the job for us."
Colin has been in charge at Muirfield for 18 years and is very much his own man when it comes to course management. Over the years he has come to trust John Deere equipment to match his needs, particularly the company's fairway mowers, which are supplied and serviced by local dealer Thomas Sherriff & Company at Haddington, East Lothian.
Colin Irvine says he is a big fan of John Deere's hybrid electric mowers, and uses 7500Es (pictured) to keep Muirfield's fairways in tip-top shape all year round. "Taking away the hydraulics from the mowing heads and the consequent noise reduction makes mowing much more comfortable for the man on board and for everyone else," he says. "Removing the risk of oil leaks is such a weight off a course manager's mind too, especially when big tournaments are in the offing."
Other John Deere machines used at Muirfield include the 2500E hybrid electric triplex greens mower, the 8000E three-wheeled, ultra-light five-gang fairway mower for larger tee and green surrounds, the 2653B triplex for pathways, the diesel 2030A ProGator and electric TE Gator utility vehicles for general transport work, and the 1565 front rotary mower for paths and rough grass.
Specific work in readiness for the 2013 Open began in earnest last October, when fairway sanding and bunker re-facing got under way, though Colin points out that he's been in pre-Open mode since the day this year's event was announced.
He encourages his 11-strong course maintenance team always to see things from a golfer's point of view. To a man they all play the game and the course, so it's easy to see why Muirfield has a reputation for being a true golfers' course.
In conjunction with the fleet of John Deere mowers that follow the course's testing contours accurately, even application of wetting agents helps the grass to grow just as evenly as elsewhere across the humps and bumps that characterize this famous old course.
Wetting agents for just about all the in-play areas perform quite a big role in the course maintenance programme, to try and get more even and lasting use of rainfall and irrigation water. Colin uses a John Deere HD200 ProGator mounted sprayer to ensure that the wetting agents are spread evenly and to the maximum effect.
Muirfield's greens, tees and aprons are hand mown every day using a total of 18 John Deere 180C and 180SL 18in or 220C 22in walk-behind greens mowers. Most of the championship tees are pretty small and triplex cutting would be difficult, but even the bigger ones are traditionally cut this way. Although the 2500E hybrid mower is also used on the greens at weekends, hand mowing these down to 4mm is absolute in the run-up to the tournament.
The course's own John Deere fleet will be supported during this period by extra machines supplied by the company and Thomas Sherriff, as official suppliers of golf course maintenance equipment to The 2013 Open Championship.