Preparations for the 2002 Open, held this year at Muirfield, 18th-21st July are now well underway. With only a few weeks to go until the big event, the team of greens staff is working round the clock to ensure the course is in championship shape.
First held at Muirfield in 1892, The Open has been played there 14 times, most recently in 1992. Initial preparations for the 2002 Open started nearly two years ago, and almost all of the course maintenance equipment used has been supplied by John Deere.
Course manager Colin Irvine runs a large fleet of John Deere equipment, including walk-behind greens mowers, ride-on greens and fairway mowers, tees & surrounds mowers, a wide area mower, Pro-Gator and E-Gator utility vehicles, an ‘Aercore’ aerator and three compact tractors, all supplied by local dealer Thomas Sherriff.
Among the latest machines being supplied for The Open are ten new 180B and three new 220B walk-behind mowers, a 3235B fairway mower, a 2500 triple greens mower and a Pro-Gator utility vehicle. More John Deere support machines, including Pro-Gators, fairway mowers and tees & surrounds mowers, are arriving during the build up to The Open.
“Since the beginning of the grass cutting season until after The Open we are hand cutting all of the greens, tees and aprons, hence the need for the extra greens mowers,” says Colin Irvine. “We are also doing more verticutting than normal to try and fine the fairways down as much as possible and take the soft growth out.”
Muirfield bought its first John Deere tractor in 1995 and since then the fleet has been built up to form more than 90 per cent of the equipment used on the course.
“When equipment has had to be replaced it has primarily been with John Deere. We choose on performance, not price, and want the best machine for the job – nine times out of 10 this is John Deere,” says Colin.
Colin grew up in the local village of Gullane and has worked at the private members golf club for just over 19 years, apart from a two-year break at a golf club in Germany. He has a team of 10 staff to manage the 200-acre site and will be supported by head greenkeepers from the local clubs and other volunteers for the week of The Open.
“The staff often spend whole days sitting on a mower or tractor, so operator comfort is very important. We have all new machines on trial before we buy, and the greens staff have commented that John Deere machines are by far the most comfortable,” says Colin.
The course overlooks the Firth of Forth and lies on very sandy, free draining soil. “We may not have a problem with water logging but in the summer the ground can get very hard. The 3235B fairway mower is especially good at holding the ground and achieving a good finish, due to the downward pressure it creates and the way the heads closely follow the undulating ground. The quality of the metal in the reels is also top class and stays sharp a lot longer than previous models we have used.”
Colin adds that the back-up service Muirfield receives from dealer Thomas Sherriff has been second to none, with a very fast and reliable parts service. “We cannot afford to have any machine out of action, so whenever we have a problem they are here to sort it out and lend us a replacement if necessary,” he says.
“With John Deere machines we are getting value for money. They have invested a lot of time and money into research and development, and the improvement that I have seen in the quality of the finish that their machines achieve at Muirfield has been fantastic.”
John Deere Limited www.johndeere.co.uk
The Open Championship www.opengolf.com