The Musselburgh Golf Club at Monktonhall near Edinburgh, which has completed its third year as an Open Championship qualifying course, is held in high regard by golfers and greenkeepers alike for its high standards of course quality and presentation.
"To be recognised by the R&A in this way has been a fantastic thing for myself and the club, it has taken us to that next level," says Tom Shepherd, course manager since 1989, who manages a team of six full-time and two part-time greenkeeping staff. "It's confirmation that the course presents a great test of golf."
The parkland course is also a good test of the quality and performance of the club's John Deere equipment fleet, which has recently been updated in a package worth around £125,000, financed by John Deere Credit and supplied by dealer Thomas Sherriff & Co of Haddington, East Lothian.
The new machines include the latest 8700 PrecisionCut fairway mower and 8800 TerrainCut semi-roughs rotary mower, 2653B tees & surrounds and 500 triplex cylinder mowers, a 220C walk-behind greens mower and a 1445 front rotary mower. These join a 670 compact tractor and an F1145 front rotary mower bought from Sherriffs in the early 1990s, which are both still going strong, plus two 220B walk-behind greens mowers, two 2653A tees & surrounds mowers, a 3235A fairway mower and two 4000 Series compact tractors.
"There's nothing special about our cutting regime, in the summer you can write the script, but the winter's a different matter," says Tom Shepherd. "We're usually still cutting in November these days, then we start cutting again seriously in March, depending on the weather. Our members demand golf 12 months a year and we have to give it to them, just as we have to be able to present the course at its best all year round.
"We were spending good money to maintain our older machines over the winter, so bringing in the new equipment means less outlay in this area. It's a big course to look after, with about 100 acres of fairways and rough, and we wanted to add more up to date machines to the fleet. We have also ordered new Mauser cabs to be fitted to both the fairway mowers, as we need the protection from winter weather in this part of the country.
"In the past we've always purchased machines, but we needed so many new ones this time that we opted for a five year fixed payment scheme through John Deere Credit, whose rates were very competitive. We are fortunate in that The Musselburgh is one of few clubs in the area with a waiting list for members, so the club is financially sound, but this scheme is very tax efficient and we felt it was sensible to take this route in the current financial climate."
The fleet order was confirmed with dealer salesman Dougie Archibald of Sherriffs following demonstrations of all the competitive makes. Tom Shepherd also visited the John Deere headquarters at Langar and attended the company's last North American Feedback meeting for greenkeepers and groundsmen in Moline.
"Because the mowers are in daily use, the staff like them particularly because they're comfortable and it's easy to set up the height of cut," says Tom Shepherd. "The quality of cut is excellent, and we've never had to replace a bearing on any of the older machines, they've been very reliable. We like to keep things simple out on the course, and the machines we use need to do their jobs well and efficiently, which they do."
The photograph shows dealer salesman Dougie Archibald of Thomas Sherriff & Co (left) and The Musselburgh Golf Club course manager Tom Shepherd with the new John Deere machines.