'Scotland's Augusta' invests in the future Any golf club that increases its membership by 20 per cent in 12 months could be forgiven for feeling pretty pleased with itself. That's certainly the case at Letham Grange Golf Ltd, where two 18 hole courses nestle in an attractive 280 acre parkland estate at Colliston near Arbroath, in Angus.
However, the club is by no means resting on its laurels, and is busy upgrading both the course and its machinery fleet to maintain a steady improvement in standards on what has already been described as the Augusta of Scotland by the editor of Golf Monthly magazine, and one of the top inland courses in the UK by BBC commentator Peter Allis, whose Play Better Golf TV series was filmed here.
Respected golf course photographer Brian Morgan also considers several holes would not be out of place at Augusta National, particularly the 160 yard par three 8th hole, which is all carry over water and has been compared to Augusta's 12th.
The clubhouse at Letham Grange is located in part of what was originally a Victorian mansion house, which has been restored and converted into a four star hotel. The membership of around 600 (and rising) can tackle the par 73 championship Old Course, designed by Donald Steel and opened in 1987 by Sir Henry Cotton, which provides a blend of tree-lined parkland and open rolling fairways, with water on 13 of the 18 holes.
There's also the shorter but still testing par 68 Glens course, on which head greenkeeper Gary Tough holds the current record for the lowest score of 61, achieved last summer. "Everything is just running so much smoother on the course!" he half jokes in justification, but the greenkeeping team is certainly benefiting from the club's new John Deere fleet.
The latest machines, supplied by local John Deere dealer The Double A Trading Company of Cupar, Fife, include a 2500A greens mower, 2653A tees & surrounds mower, 1545 front rotary mower, 19hp 4110 compact tractor, 35hp 3520 compact tractor with front loader and a 6x4 diesel Gator utility vehicle, plus a LasTec Articulator rotary mower."We already had a Gator, an 1145 front rotary mower and an old 1140 agricultural tractor that was used on the farmland here before the golf course was built," says Gary. "But due to a lack of investment in new equipment by the previous owners, we felt we were going backwards. Fortunately our new owner has given the club the opportunity to reinvest and take everything forward.
"We had some good demonstrations which definitely helped us decide on the choice of equipment, and the prices were very competitive. Several of the John Deere machines have proved a lot easier to use than our previous makes; for example, the offset reels feature on the greens mower is a big factor in reducing wear and tear on the greens, especially on an inland course.
"It's just made life so much easier now that machines aren't in the workshop every few days being fixed," adds Gary. "We can go out and get the job done quickly and efficiently, with no problems, and if we do need a part we know we can get it very quickly with John Deere's next day delivery service. Most importantly we can keep the course looking tidy and clean, and this makes a better impression all round."
General manager Fraser Gemmell agrees: "It's fair to say the course has really come on a bomb in the last year or so. We've had super comments from members and particularly visitors, who have been rebooking immediately after playing. What with this and the increase in membership, it means the investment is already paying for itself."
Photo: Letham Grange Golf Ltd managing director Ian Lumsden (front right), head greenkeeper Gary Tough (front, seated) and his team, and dealer principal Sandy Armit (front left), with salesman Chic MacDonald (back, second left) of John Deere dealership Double A, and the new John Deere machinery fleet.