The Leicestershire Golf Club has undergone a major overhaul of its equipment, including the adoption of new technology, as part of a new long-term strategy on the premises.
Backed by the management committee, course manager Steve Hardy has upgraded the club’s machinery fleet, replacing ageing equipment which was costing tens of thousands of pounds in repairs.
In its place, John Deere has provided a range of kit, which Mr Hardy states is saving time and money, as well as enabling the grounds team to perform their roles to a higher standard.
“When I came in, I wanted to make improvements but there were lots of issues that needed resolving so it was a case of prioritising,” he said.
“The machinery fleet was old and inefficient – breakdowns were happening all the time and it was taking days to get the parts to be back up and running.
“The team was spending hours cutting the course and it still wasn’t looking the best it could because the tools they were using were letting them down.”
Within weeks of joining the firm in July 2021, Mr Hardy had proposed sweeping changes and organised demonstrations with major manufacturers of mowers, sprayers and utility vehicles.
“The club was moving from purchasing machinery and hoping it would last for 20 years to a five to seven-year strategy so, financially, it’s been a big ask for them,” he said.
“But the communication between us and the members was good. The old budget meant the money we had wasn’t enough to do some basic maintenance or buy the necessary amount of fertiliser we need.
“We brought the committee down to the shed and showed them the old machinery next to the new stuff and it was a no-brainer. The club wanted a plan with no surprises and this is what they now have.”
Working with Jacob Shellis, from local John Deere dealer Farol, an order was placed for four 2750 Precision Cut greens mowers, two 7500A fairway mowers, a 9009 Terrain Cut for roughs and surrounds, and an HPX Gator for picking up on the driving range and general course transport.
The club also purchased an HD200 GPS precision sprayer. The 757-litre unit is based on Deere’s ProGator heavy-duty utility vehicle and is equipped with various technologies including AutoTrac auto-steering, automatic section control and individual nozzle control.
This means that spraying operations are now far more accurate, with no overlap or non-target areas sprayed with chemicals. Mr Hardy estimates that the firm is saving 30% in chemical usage, with the budget for spray already reduced to reflect this change.
“The sprayer is getting a huge amount of use. Just on greens, we’re spraying once a week with a wetting agent, a fertiliser, or a growth regulator,” he said. “In peak season it will be out working most days.
“Previously the job was contracted out so we were bound by the weather and the availability of someone to come and do the job. Now, if we get a gap, we can go out whenever the conditions are right.
“This is our first year using the sprayer and compared to other clubs in the area we came out pretty clean. A lot of that will be down to good planning but the chemical going down at exactly the right rate in exactly the right place has to have had an effect too.”
Furthermore, he says that there is a notable time saving using the system. “Using automated spraying records is great,” he said. “They are generated as soon as a task has been completed.
“With the option of downloading them immediately from your iPhone, this takes a lot of time away from the admin side of things and ensures complete compliance.”
All the new machines are fitted with Modular Telematics Gateways (MTG) receivers, enabling the company to track the status and performance of each model. Remote monitoring is also offered by Farol for proactive servicing and maintenance.
This information is fed through the John Deere Operations Center and Mr Hardy says that this has pushed efficiency forward.
He said: “By allocating tasks from a computer or phone to each operator on a machine, they just go from job to job which has cut idling time down to below 6%.
“We are able to share all this information with the club, so they know exactly what’s going on among the greenkeeping team.”
The team of six groundsmen are also happy with the new equipment and the two trained sprayer operators have adopted the technology quickly.
Mr Hardy concluded: “There is plenty more to be getting on with here but the new machinery is a huge step forward. The committee is very proud of it and my team is very happy.
“This has solved the problems we faced in the main season and now we can move on to our next priority, which is irrigation.”