John Deere has been given official supplier status for the Open Championship at Muirfield in July. This means Deere will be supplying course maintenance equipment for three of this year’s major international golf tournaments in the UK – in addition to the Open, the Brabazon Course at The De Vere Belfry will be maintained by John Deere machines for both the Benson & Hedges International and the Ryder Cup.
John Deere’s first Open as preferred machinery supplier was at last year’s Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes, where head greenkeeper Paul Smith, at only 32, was one of the youngest ever to manage an Open Championship course. Paul started training at neighbouring St Annes Old Links golf course in 1986 and first joined the greenkeeping staff at Royal Lytham in 1989. He then moved to Furness Golf Club as course manager in 1996, before returning to Royal Lytham in 1999 as head greenkeeper.
Although the course already operated a handful of John Deere machines – four 180A 46cm (18in) walk-behind greens mowers, a 4600 compact tractor and an RZI root zone injector – course preparation for the Open Championship at this famous links course demanded a much larger fleet, which was supplied and serviced by local dealer Balmer’s Garden Machinery, based in Burnley. Balmer’s salesman Darren Barker and John Deere territory manager Nick Ashman supported the course staff throughout the Open week.
The full line-up included eight 180A walk-behind mowers for the greens, two 2500 triple greens mowers with seven blade reels, which were used on the tees, aprons and fringes, three 2653A utility triple mowers for the banks and bunker faces, and three 3235B fairway mowers with fairway tender conditioners. These were used without grass boxes, due to the efficiency of the FTC reels in cutting and re-cutting the fairway grass in one pass.
These machines were joined by four versatile Gator utility vehicles – three of them electric models – and a 455 lawn and garden tractor complete with materials collection system. This compact, multi-purpose machine was primarily used for collecting tee pegs off the practice range.
The choice of John Deere equipment for the Open stems back to Paul Smith’s experience at Furness Golf Club, where he particularly valued the overall service he received. “It comes down to a good combination of the dealer’s service and parts support, John Deere’s back-up and the knowledge and experience of the greenkeeping staff,” says Paul.
“John Deere has always proved its commitment and willingness to help, from the dealer through to the local territory manager and the company itself. They are interested in how the machines perform for the individual greenkeeper and his course, and also value individual opinion and evaluation of the equipment.
“The machines have to be right, of course, but John Deere is now widely regarded as one of the top manufacturers of fine turf machinery – their products are well engineered and effective.
“There are many elements of course preparation and presentation that an Open venue will be judged by. However, the performance of the putting surfaces is perhaps most important, and we didn’t have one criticism of the greens at all. They were uniform, pacey and putted true – they behaved as links greens are supposed to.”
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