Greens mowers

Ask any golf-course manager what it is that players care most about, and 90 percent of them will say, "The greens." Greens are the heart and soul of any course. They make it look beautiful and professional. They give a course an image of prestige. They offer that all-important first impression to your potential customers or visiting golfers. Most superintendents agree that it is almost impossible to place too much importance on the aesthetic value of their greens.

Aesthetic value begins and ends with mowing. Fertilizer, pest controls, aeration and irrigation are certainly required, but if the mowing isn't performed properly, all is for naught. Mow too high, and ball speed suffers. Mow too low, and turf becomes vulnerable to disease. Mow in the wrong pattern and no matter how healthy the turf, it just won't look right. Industry professionals understand that healthy greens require constant attention. Peter Whurr, director of product management for Textron Turf Care & Specialty Products (Lincoln, Neb.), knows what most golf-course superintendents want from their greens. "Superintendents want an excellent quality of cut from one side of the green to the other," he explains. "That means that all three blade units on a triplex mower, for example, must perform in an absolutely identical fashion. I know superintendents who actually use prisms to measure the width of individual turf blades to be sure they are the exact same size and not being torn or frayed from mowing. The c leaner the cut, the less chance the turf has for disease. As far as the superintendents are concerned, they know that at the most basic level, the game of golf is won and lost on the greens."

The average golfer will not inspect the turf for insects or disease. They will, however, notice greens that are visually pleasing--or not. While the overall look of the greens is due to the many factors already mentioned (and more), what really captures theattention of the golfer is the way in which you've mowed and groomed the green. They may not consciously recognize this, but that is exactly what they are noticing. You may want them to notice how your chemical and irrigation schedule has provided them with a pest- and disease-free turf, but this won't be what they become aware of right away. To win the attention, admiration (and business) of your potential and existing golfers, your greens must look outstanding.

According to Helmut Ulrich, marketing manager for greens mowers at The Toro Co. (Minneapolis, Minn.), "The quality of cut has traditionally been what most superintendents were after--which, of course, means something different to everyone. With new turf cultivars--especially the dwarf varieties--greens can handle lower cuts. In fact, you almost have to cut at 1/8 inch for these new cultivars to do well. But now, superintendents are focusing on aesthetic aspects of the green such as healthier turf and narrower striping. Pleasing the golfer is the ultimate goal." Echoing those comments is Ron Reichen, John Deere's senior engineer--greens mowers and cutting units. "Speed is important, but groomers and quality of cut are used to achieve those results," he says. "One superintendent once told me, 'Those greens are my signature. When it comes to them, my career and reputation are out there for everyone to see.'"

Technological advancements Advancements in technology have enabled newer greens mowers to offer enhanced productivity and reduced noise levels. A certain amount of political correctness is involved when it comes to the topic of noise pollution. Many industry insiders feel as if the media has picked up on the wrong angle of this issue. "Products made today are quiet and environmentally friendly," Ulrich says. "Manufacturers are always trying to improve their machines and make them even more quiet." In certain parts of the country, where noise ordinances or residential concerns exist, superintendents must use electric mowers to be in compliance. According to Whurr, "Electric greens-mower batteries last up to 3 hours, and that is more than enough time to mow 18 greens."

Training golf-course personnel how to use these new pieces of equipment is easier than ever. Simply put, these newer machines are very user-friendly. Bedknife-to-reel adjustments are easy to make and stay in their set positions after several uses. Manufacturers have improved cutting-height-adjustment controls to allow for easy and convenient foot or hand adjustment. "According to research consultation we've done," Reichen adds, "superintendents want machines that offer easy access to making adjustments. These types of features are a primary determinant when considering the purchase of a greens mower."

Safeguards have remained a constant goal for most manufacturers. Ulrich says, "We have oil-leak detectors that can detect a leak as low as 3 ounces. A special dye is used with the oil to help operators easily detect leaks." Adding to this, Reichen states, "Even with safety-mechanism advancements on these machines, proper training of operators is always the best way to detect leaks and other problems." Whurr says, "In this regard, electric mowers have certain advantages over gas or diesel machines. Primarily, they don't require gas or filter changes--ever. They never have hydraulic leaks. Of course, even the new gas and diesel models have fewer oil and hydraulic leaks since they have fewer fittings. Some of the new machines of today actually monitor themselves. Even very small leaks can be detected by their systems."

New technology in oil development has helped ease the fear of soil contamination from oil leaks. "There is now biodegradable oil available that causes no damage whatsoever to the turf's root-system," Whurr says. "Obviously, if you spill hot water on turf, the blades that are hit by that water will die. But their roots won't. The same thing is true when it comes to biodegradable oil. The blades on the surface may die, but the oil will not kill the roots. Therefore, you don't have toexcavate the contaminated soil and incur the added expense of replacing it."

Most superintendents agree as to features greens mowers should offer, and manufacturers continue to produce machines that meet these demands. Superintendents need to consider many issues when planning a greens-mower purchase. Aesthetics, green speed, ease of operation, cutting height and turf health are a few of these considerations. "Above all," Whurr concludes, "you need to make sure you have all of your questions answered before you make the purchase."

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