At Surbiton Golf Club in Surrey, the majority of the 650 active playing members are competitive golfers, striving to improve their game and thus setting the bar high for course manager Andrew Kerr. Being equipped to maintain and further develop course standards is key, requiring top quality, reliable equipment.
This year Andrew has added a new Kubota B1241 compact and M5-112 utility tractor to the armoury, and they are proving to fit the brief well.
“We’re aiming to be as progressive as the members are and provide facilities so they can continually advance their game,” he explains. “‘The club decided to extend its practice facilities by adding a 100yd short game covered area and a 940sqm putting green with three different types of bunker including a ‘Royal St George’s’ type bunker for members who also like to play on links courses.”
The green is designed in the same way as the rest of the course, on two levels, with run offs, so members can practice and them transfer the skills to their round.
Andrew is working on a five-year plan of improvements on the course, with projects for 2022 including developing a members-only driving range, improved playing surface presentation and ecological enhancements. Rainwater harvesting and new water storage for irrigation are further environment-focused developments.
Much of the construction work, from the putting green extension to irrigation upgrades, is tackled in-house and the 115hp M5-112 is a key tool in the armoury. Andrew explains. “For example, we needed to move 3000 tonnes of material, and with a two tonne trailer this would have meant hundreds of trips. So using my agricultural background I took a different approach, purchasing the Kubota tractor and an eight tonne dump trailer on large wheels with balloon tyres, which sit outside the tractor wheels and minimise damage. We’ve got a high capacity digger, so matching the tractor and trailer to it increases efficiency.”
The course has a high percentage of heavy soils and predominantly push up greens, and a programme of cultural practices has been introduced including aeration and sanding. Greens have responded well to sandbanding, so the focus has now moved to fairways, tees and roughs.
“There’s a lot of pressure on the course with the high footfall and competitive golfers,” he comments.
The original purpose of buying the 24hp Kubota B1241 was to carry a ball collector for the new driving range, explains Andrew. “Many ranges use other solutions for ball collectors, but they can put a lot of strain on a vehicle, whereas the metal chassis of a tractor is built for it.”
The B1241 is fitted with Kubota’s new mid-ROPS option, which gives a lower overall height when folded down in height-restricted situations and importantly, frees up the rear of the tractor to attach the ball cage.
“The frame simply clamps to the back of the tractor and is easy to put on and remove. The mid-ROPS was an attractive feature for this.”
“However, we keep finding new uses for the B1241 – it’s a bit of a dogsbody! The Kubota has a very light footprint, yet it’s four-wheel drive. We like the manual transmission for its versatility, and the hydraulic spools to operate implements.”
He comments that while club has traditionally used a Charterhouse Speed Brush on a larger compact after topdressing, a trial of the Kubota with a Sisis Flexbrush proved that it could be more efficient.
‘We put a light dusting of sand on the greens every two weeks and follow it with three or four passes of the brush. It has made a significant improvement to the levels and playability.”
A home-built harrow is fitted for general grooming of the fairways and roughs and to brush in sand on the fairways.
“We also looking at using the tractor with a flail, and at fitting pallet forks to the three-point linkage.”
Andrew comments that the Kubotas are driven by all the members of the greenkeeping team, with their straightforward dependability proving to be a plus with the busy workload.
“Kubota has a pedigree, so you know what you are getting. We’re confident that they will still be working well in 15 years – the M5 probably has more horsepower than we need, but that adds to its longevity. We’re not just purchasing for now, but for the future.”