Set in 160 acres of beautiful Essex parkland with superb views of the countryside stretching as far as London on a clear day, Abridge Golf Club at Stapleford Tawney near Romford describes itself as having traditional values with a modern outlook.
Course manager Geoff Smith welcomes what he also describes as a 'new dawn' at the club, with recent developments including a third successive John Deere course maintenance equipment fleet deal with local dealer P Tuckwell Ltd at Ardleigh, near Colchester. This is based on a John Deere Financial operating lease with PowerGard Protection Plus warranty and maintenance cover for the duration of the lease, based on simple monthly payments.
This deal has been complemented by the arrival of a new teaching professional and a new golf club fitting centre installed by Golf Principles of Basingstoke, as well as plans for a redesign of the clubhouse plus an overhaul of the practice facilities and driving range. A new full wall-to-wall Perrot state of the art irrigation system, the first one of its kind in the UK, is also being installed by contractors M J Abbott this winter.
"It's a really exciting time for the club," says Geoff Smith. "With this new investment, the first for several years, we are aiming to bring the course back to Open Qualifier standards and keep ahead of the competition. The only real asset we have is the golf course, so it needs to be looked after.
"Members can already see what we've achieved, and our board members believe the course is the best it's ever looked. A neighbouring club's greens chairman even said that he'd heard Abridge is in absolutely magnificent condition."
With this third package deal, 100 per cent of the equipment has been leased compared to just 40 per cent with the club's first agreement. "The terms of the deal and the service package have improved each time, and with this latest investment we know exactly where we are budget wise for the next five years, with no hidden costs," says Geoff.
The package covers 26 John Deere machines, including PrecisionCut and TerrainCut walk-behind and ride-on mowers for the greens, tees, approaches and rough, compact tractors and a front loader, Gator utility vehicles, an amenity turf sprayer and a bunker rake, plus ancillary equipment.
"We looked at all the main brands and had machines on demonstration - all of my staff get to try them and report back on their likes and dislikes," says Geoff. "Our mechanic Paul Aylett, deputy course manager Ben Scrivener and I then evaluate the staff's findings and look at price options and back-up issues.
"For us it all comes back to the dealer and the service we've historically had and continue to get from Tuckwell and sales manager Neil Peachey. All the advice, help and extra support really count - it's a good relationship, and it works well for both sides. Our machines do a lot of work and if Paul cannot solve things, I need to know that someone from the supplier can be with us within 24 hours."
Geoff Smith also says he's very impressed with the new John Deere 9009A rough mower, which provides much better definition around the course. "When it was first demonstrated I didn't want it, I thought it was too big, but Neil said he'd take it back if I really didn't like it - and it stayed!
"I like the new 220SL walk-behind greens mowers too - we hand cut five out of seven days in high season, using lights and front brushes, and they do a very good job. The new A Model mowers with the TechControl display on the CommandArm are great as well, allowing every machine to achieve the same consistent finish across the course."