Pyle & Kenfig Golf Club in Bridgend, commonly known as P&K, is one of Wales's few true championship links courses. Its lofty sand dunes and unique series of habitats hug the same stretch of South Wales coastline as its near neighbour Royal Porthcawl.
Looking down the 14th hole to the Bristol Channel, (standing front left & right) Pyle & Kenfig Golf Club head greenkeeper Paul Johnson and John Deere dealer Sean Brown of Powercut, with (left to right) committee member Geoff Vincent, chairman of course committee Ian Booth, committee member Wynne Evans, club captain Colin Wood and club secretary/manager Simon Hopkin, with John Deere territory manager Nick Ashman at the rear and members of the greenkeeping team including (left to right) Nathan Jones, Stephen Lambert, Simon Lacey and first assistant Lloyd Preece
It is also one of the few golf clubs in Wales to have been awarded GEO certification, in May 2020. This environmental management award recognised the club's efforts to achieve a credible standard for sustainable golf course operation, and its important contributions in protecting nature, conserving resources and strengthening local communities.
"Achieving this certification is just part of an on-going commitment to continue striving for excellence in sustainable golf," says club secretary/manager Simon Hopkin. "This has also seen us invest this year in more modern and environmentally friendly course maintenance equipment, with the help of Sean Brown from John Deere dealer Powercut and the company's territory manager Nick Ashman.
"The club celebrates its centenary in 2022, when we will be hosting the R&A Men's Home Internationals tournament, so we're keen to achieve the best course we possibly can, not just for that event but for the year-round benefit of our members and visitors."
After initial discussions were held with P&K on how best to upgrade the club's ageing mower fleet, Powercut and Nick Ashman arranged to have a brand new 2750 E-Cut hybrid electric triplex mower transported to Wales for its first ever public demonstration. This was also the first pre-production machine to arrive in the UK after its launch at BTME in January 2019, and was shipped direct from John Deere's stand display at The Solheim Cup at Gleneagles, which required a special police escort off the site.
Following this P&K agreed a John Deere Financial five-year finance lease deal, with a three-month payment holiday due to Covid-19, and put in the first UK order for three 2750E mowers, two equipped with cutting units for the tees and collars and one for the greens. The order also included a 6500A lightweight fairway mower, with an HPX 815E Gator utility vehicle and a 5075E utility tractor on turf tyres plus H-Series front loader bought earlier in the year.
"Together with our head greenkeeper Paul Johnson, we conducted a machinery audit to help us identify the best machines to help us improve the greens, tees and surrounds in particular," says Simon Hopkin. "As part of the overall course improvements, we had been filling in bunkers to create more roll-off areas, and we had already identified the need for mowers that could cope with the slopes, which hadn't been possible up to that point.
Simon Lacey and Stephen Lambert operating the new John Deere 2750E hybrid electric mowers on Pyle & Kenfig's 14th green
"We also had a course audit from an independent STRI agronomist, who quizzed us about the machinery and cutting regimes and made some recommendations that contributed to the debate. Having to reduce our original wish list from six mowers to four, to make the package financially viable, then focused our attention on finding the most versatile equipment for our needs."
Paul Johnson had heard early reports about the 2750E mower, and Nick Ashman confirmed its versatility for use on both fairways and greens, in particular how it could adhere to ground contours and still maintain a quality cut.
"I came away from our initial meetings with a really positive feeling, even before we had the demos," says Paul. "I just thought if this machine can do the job that we need it to, this could be a very good solution and will give us exactly what we need.
"It was certainly exciting to be the first club to see the mower working. I already knew about the quality of the cutting units, so it was great to then see proof of the mower's contour hugging ability and the accuracy of cutting around the swales, collars and surrounds. I liked the look of the mower too, with the yellow grass boxes. We all felt straight away that this was a game changer."
Simon Hopkin concludes: "As soon as we started using the new mowers, everyone at the club commented on the improvement in the quality of presentation around the course, which continues to look superb. Since changing over to our new John Deere fleet, we are also very happy with the service and support given to us by Powercut. This combination of the right service and the right machines has now set the gold standard."