Cutting height, ball speed and a light touch from the greens mowers are all critical factors for Mike Mercer, course manager at Southport & Ainsdale Golf Club, which hosts the final qualifying round for the 2012 Open Championship being held at Royal Lytham & St Annes.
"Players of all abilities have become far more discerning about playing standards, and they'll soon tell you if they are not up to scratch," says Mike, who has clocked up 27 years at this heathland links course, 16 of these as course manager.
Always keen to keep abreast of new technology, Mike was an early adopter of John Deere's 2500 E-Cut hybrid electric greens mower. The operational issues that were experienced with some of the original machines, now fully rectified, could have led him to change his preferences.
However, area salesman Ian Roberts of John Deere dealer Turner Groundscare at Tarvin, Chester, persuaded him to keep the faith when Mike was looking to replace the mower. It's a decision that Mike and his five-strong greenkeeping team have not regretted.
"We run several other John Deere machines here, including a 4320 compact tractor, a 3235A fairways mower, a 500 triple mower and a 2500B greens mower," he says. "So I decided to replace our first 2500E, which was five years old, with the new version. This has proved to be very reliable, and performs almost like a utility machine, so we can also use it for verticutting."
As a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), the course is run under strict environmental conditions, and the 2500E plays its part in helping meet the maintenance requirements that this status demands. Mike and his team have an extensive programme in place to ensure first class playing quality and turf conditions.
"In spring we increase greens cutting from three times a week to daily, and for competitions we double cut then iron the greens," says Mike.
Such regular mowing naturally raises the chance of accidental oil leaks, so Mike chose the 2500E because, as he puts it, "It is kinder to the turf and drastically reduces the chances of a potentially devastating leak."
Sound levels are also reduced - another important environmental factor - while cut quality and productivity are maintained, and fuel savings can be as great as 20 per cent. "Typically the mower consumes 3.5 to 4 litres of diesel for every cut of the greens, a task that can take up to three hours," says Mike.
The new 2500E model also features John Deere's QA5 (Quick Adjust 5in diameter) cutting units. This system makes light work of adjusting each cylinder's cutting height, turning what was a 15-minute job into a 30-second one.
"In winter, cutting height is 4.5 to 5mm, coming down to between 3.5 and 4mm in spring and summer. Time is always an important factor, so using the quick adjust feature to change the cutting height is really useful," Mike adds.
John Deere Limited
Tel: +44 (0)1949 860491