3 The Reel Deal

mower-testing-donnington-150_website.jpgFine turf mowers are put through their paces at Donnington Wood Bowling Club in Telford, Shropshire

Today's Greenkeepers and Groundsmen have a wide selection of fine turf cylinder mowers to choose from. At the last count there were ten manufacturers of pedestrian cylinder mowers for the professional sportsturf industry.

Decisions on purchase will depend on a variety of factors. Personal preference will always play a major part in the decision making process as will the tie-in with a local dealer and their franchises, parts and service back-up and, of course, cost.

The objectives of this article are to give an overview of what is available in today's marketplace, and to look at how each model performs in similar conditions.

A number of new features have been added to cylinder mowers in recent years, particularly the cutting units, hand controls, safety features and cassette systems that have broadened the capabilities and improved the performance of the machines. In addition, Protea's low priced entry models have entered the marketplace offering smaller clubs and other sports facilities the opportunity to buy new rather than secondhand.

The comparison tests were conducted by Kevin Moult, of KM Turfcare Specialists, who looks after several bowling clubs i donnington-bowling-green-june-08-002_website.jpgn Shropshire. The mowers were put through their paces at Donnington Wood Bowling Club in Telford.

Kevin has spent many years working in the turfcare industry predominantly on golf, bowls and cricket facilities. He has been maintaining the greens at Donnington Wood for three years and, in that time, has raised their standard to being regarded as amongst the best playing surfaces in the region.

Eight suppliers took part in the comparison test; only the Masport Golf and Atco Balmoral mowers were unavailable with Ransomes Jacobsen choosing to provide their dedicated bowls mower from their range.

  • Allett Tournament 20
  • Allett Shaver 20
  • Allett C20
  • Baroness LM56GF
  • Dennis FT510 Cassette
  • John Deere 220C
  • Lloyds Paladin TG
  • Lloyds Paladin Dual
  • Protea 510G
  • Ransomes Jacobsen Superbowl 51
  • Toro Greensmaster 1000


Each mower was assessed on set criteria with a score of 1-10 awarded for each category.

  1. Was a manual supplied and was it easy to understand?
  2. Ease of daily maintenance checks?
  3. Setting up the cutting unit?
  4. Height of cut adjustment?
  5. Access to fuel tank, oil filler cap, grease nipples etc.?
  6. Was the machine easy to transport?
  7. Clipping collection and grass box removal?
  8. Front and rear roller clogging?
  9. Quality of cut and appearance of turf after cutting?
  10. Weight, balance and manoeuvrability?
  11. Were the controls easy to use?
  12. How quiet was the machine during operation?
  13. Were the vibration levels acceptable?
  14. Cleaning down?

In addition Kevin gave his own comments on any extras such as groomers, combs and cassettes, what he felt were the pros of the machine and what, if any, were the cons. Finally, he gave his overall assessment of the machine.

A total of 140 points was available (14 questions). All the mowers were set at a mowing height of 4mm and used to cut the greens every other day.
All the machines scored well with the majority being awarded 8 points or above in each category.

The machine with the highest total of points was the Baroness LM56GM (131), dropping just nine points, with the John Deere 220C running it a close second (126).

Propping up the table, and by no means a reflection of poor quality, was the Protea 510G, which is what you might expect from an entry level model.

Please remember that these tests were conducted on bowls greens. Whilst some of the disciplines will be similar to golf, the requirements of football, rugby, tennis, cricket and others will be considerably different.

Whilst comparison tests can offer helpful tips and counterpoints Pitchcare always recommend that users demo the machines they are interested in to be absolutely sure that they will serve their intended purpose.

Pitchcare are grateful to the manufacturers for their assistance in conducting these tests and to Kevin Moult for his not inconsiderable time and effort.


How the mowers fared ... Click on image to read results

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Allett - Country of origin: UK

Allett provided three mowers for testing - the Allett Shaver 20, Tournament 20 and the C20, basically the same machine but with a groomer on the Tournament model and interchangeable cassette system on the C20. allet-mowers-3_website.jpg

Well engineered and solidly built they have a reputation for standing up to plenty of wear and tear.

The Shaver is powered by a Honda GX120 4hp petrol engine with a fuel capacity of 2 litres.
Cutting width is 51cm and height of cut adjustments are between 1.5mm-19mm.
Cutting cylinder has 10 blades made from high carbon hardened and tempered spring steel.
Overall weight of the machine is 81.5kg
The Allett C20 is powered by a Honda 5.5hp engine with a fuel capacity of 3.1 litres.
Cutting width is 50cm and height of cut can be adjusted between 1.5mm-19mm.
It has a 6 blade cylinder. The C20 also comes with a range of interchangeable cassettes.

Total weight of mower is 88.5kg.
The Allett Tournament 20 is powered by a 4hp Honda engine with a fuel capacity of 2 litres. Cutting width is 51cm and height of cut can be adjusted between 1.5mm-19mm.
It has a 10 blade cylinder and a total weight of 92kg.

List prices:

Shaver 20: £3,100
Tournament 20: £3,700
C20: Power unit and grass box: £2,990
Cassettes are purchased individually, for example, a 10 blade cylinder costs £770

Kevin says:
"The Allett mowers offer simple operator use; simply squeeze the two cradle bars and you're away! All models offered a more than adequate quality of cut with the groomer on the Tournament model, which is fitted as standard, automatically engaging when in cutting mode. The interchangeable cassettes on the C20 model were a very useful addition."

Points: 118

Baroness LM56GF - Country of origin: Japan baroness-2_website.jpg

The Kyoeisha Corporation of Japan has been producing grass-cutting machinery for almost 50 years under the brand name Baroness.

The LM series of mowers have become very popular in recent years and are now highly respected in the sports turf industry.

They are among the lightest mowers on the market weighing 81kg.

Cutting width is 55.6cm with a choice of 9 or 11 bladed cylinders and having a cutting height between 3mm-29mm.
The mower is powered by a Robin EX13D engine with fuel tank capacity of 2.7 litres.
List prices: £4,800 includes the grooming reel assembly and all extras.
Baroness LM56G without groomer: £3650

Kevin says:

"The Baroness offers a razor sharp cut and the machine certainly looks the part. The height of cut was adjusted by fingers and was very easy to do. Controls were simple with the minimum levers and good transport options. It is, perhaps, a little light to use which can create a little 'wobble'. For bowls the wheel pegs create difficulty to cut to the edge of the green but, all in all, this was my favourite machine."

Points: 131

Dennis FT510 - Country of origin: UK dennis_website.jpg

A versatile option for the busy Groundsman. Its unique cassette system arrangement offers the user a combination of additional tools for turfcare maintenance.

Cassette options for the FT510 include brush, roller, sorrel roller, slitter, one-millimetre scarifier, two-millimetre scarifier and a verticutter.

The mower is powered by a 5.5hp Honda engine with a fuel tank capacity of 3.6 litres.
Independent roller and cutter drives give a variable clip rate up to 160 cuts per metre.
The mower has a easy "tool-free click system" of adjusting the height of cut.
The cylinders come in 9 or 5 bladed configurations with a width of cut of 51cms with cutting heights between 1.6mm-30mm. Total weight of mower 110kg.

List price - power unit and grass box: £3,085
Cassettes are purchased individually, for example, a 9 blade cylinder costs £785.

Kevin says:

"There is a quality feel about the Dennis and it is very smooth during operation. It gave a good quality of cut and adjustments were easy. The dead man's handle was a bit uncomfortable as you felt you were squeezing very hard while pulling the lever to drive the machine."

Points: 120

John Deere 220C - Country of origin: USA JD-220c-_website.jpg

Amongst the lightest walk-behind greens mowers available and, again, another favourite mower for golf greenkeepers.
Bedknife-to-reel and height-of-cut adjustments on the C Series walk-behind greens mowers can be made quickly and easily, saving valuable time for technicians to use to complete other necessary tasks.

The C Series mowers come standard with an engine gear reduction in the external differential drive. This mechanism automatically compensates the reel speed across the full throttle range.

An eleven bladed self propelled cylinder mower offering a range of cutting heights between 2mm-22 mm with a cutting width of 56cm.

The Mower is powered by a 4hp Honda GX120 4-cycle engine with a fuel capacity of is 2.5 litres and total weight of the mower is 102kg.

List price: £3,995

Kevin says:

"A good looking machine that offers a really good quality cut. Only the gear lever and visibility into the grass box lets it down. Like the Baroness the wheel pegs create a problem for cutting bowls greens. This machine had a really good feel and balance."

Points: 126

Lloyds Paladin TG21 - Country of origin: UK

Has a long pedigree with some 40 years service in the sportsturf industry. In that time has changed very little in the way of looks. H donnington-bowling-green-june-08-005_website.jpgowever, like most mower manufacturers, modifications have been made to meet demands and comply with H&S legislation. (Noise and pollution levels).

The mower is now powered with a 4 hp Honda engine with a fuel tank capacity is 2.5 litres and fitted with the latest OPC safety controls.

A noticeable feature of the Paladin is the short distance between the rear and front rollers. This reduces the likelihood of scalping the grass.

It is offered in two widths: 53.3cm and 61cm.
The cylinders come in 9 or 11 bladed.
Configurations with a cutting height ranging between 1.5mm-25mm. Total weight of the mower is 76kg.
List price: is £3,695

Kevin says:

"The Paladin has user friendly control and a really good feel and balance.The quality of cut is excellent and still looks good the next day. There's a lovely feel about this machine but, beware, this was the first time in many years that I burned my arm on an exhaust!"

Points: 122

Protea 510G - Country of origin: South Africa protea-mowing_website.jpg

Built in South Africa and distributed in the UK by Rivendell Projects, Protea mowers are rapidly becoming established as the affordable option for many bowling and cricket clubs.
The mower is powered by a Subaru Robin 4.5hp EX13 single-cylinder air-cooled four-stroke petrol engine.
Fuel tank capacity is 2 litres.
Cutting cylinders are 152mm in diameter with 12 spiral blades and the bedknife is made of hardened steel. Cutting heights can be set between 2.5mm-30mm.
Width of cut is 51cm. Total weight of mower is 72kg.

List price: £1,530

Kevin says:

"This machine didn't like cutting in damp conditions, requiring a dew switch before mowing. It was a little noisy but was well balanced. The height of cut adjustment was hand adjustable and very easy. I particularly liked the transport cradle which was very easy to use. The Protea is a good, simple machine at a very good price."

Points: 114


Ransomes Super Bowl 51 - Country of origin: UK

Yet another British built mower with a long-standing reputation for providing fine turf mowers for the sports turf industry. ransome-super-bowl-51_website.jpg
The Super Bowl 51, as its name implies, is highly recommended for the regular mowing of bowling greens and is obviously well matched to keep cricket squares in pristine condition.
Ransomes engineers have reduced the overall sound level and the machines are now guaranteed to operate at or below 96 dBA.
The ten bladed self propelled cylinder mower offers a range of cutting heights between 3mm-13mm with a cutting width of 51cm.
The mower is powered by a 4hp Honda engine with a fuel capacity of 2.5 litres. Total weight is 97kg..

List price: £3,045 including Grass Box and Brush & Comb set. Verti-Groom kit £1,152

Kevin says:

"Just what you would expect from Ransomes, a good all round solid piece of machinery which is built to last. It has all the hallmarks of a traditional Ransomes machine. There was good grass collection with a full view of the grass entering the box. The one thing I would look at would be a change to the bottom blade tightening."

Points: 120

Toro Greensmaster 1000 - Country of origin: USA

Designed to produce consistent cut on delicate contoured greens. toro-greenmaster-pic-2_website.jpg
The mowers are now a firm favourite with many golf Greenkeepers.
Ergonomic handles make mowing comfortable for a wide range of operators. The 3-position pull pin height adjustment allows the operator to quickly adjust the handle for comfort without a technician's assistance.

Offering a range of cutting heights between 2mm-25.4 mm with a cutting width of 53.3cm an 11 bladed cylinder is standard with the option of an 8 blade cylinder.
The mower is powered by a 3.7hp Kawasaki Engine. Fuel capacity is 2.5 litres and total weight of the mower is 94.3kg.

List price: £4,392

Kevin says:

"Really looks the part with easy adjustments and great balance. Moving the machine after each run was a bit difficult on a bowls green and it wasn't easy to see the clippings entering the box on the left side. Like most of the machines it cut well in damp conditions. This machine really purred!"

Points: 124

Please note: all prices shown are plus VAT

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