Mowers for tees and surrounds

Golf course greens, with their meticulous, manicured look, clearly receive special attention. That includes specialized mowers that provide the close cut desired by most golfers, yet do not damage the delicate turf.

But if devoting attention to greens means neglecting other parts of a course's green expanse, players won't be satisfied. Courses also need to maintain tee areas and green surrounds.

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"The industry is constantly seeking perfection, whether it's greens, fairways, semi-roughs or tees and surrounds," says Peter Whurr, vice president of product management for Textron Turf Care and Specialty Products.

For tees and surrounds, that means using mowers that provide the characteristics golfers expect.

"You want to provide a consistent surface to tee off," says Chuck Greif, National Sales Manager for John Deere's Golf & Turf Division.

The machines for tees and surrounds have a little more versatility than greens mowers.

"Tee areas are not usually large," says Whurr. "You would use a triplex mower, with a low center of gravity. Tees often have a mound or a berm at the tee, so the mower should be able to be used on hills."

Triplex mowers Many courses use a triplex reel mower with cutting units of 26 or 30 inches, such as John Deere's 2653 Professional Utility Mower or Jacobsen's Tri-King 1900, These mowers can provide a cut of 3/8 to 1/2 inch that is desirable for tee areas.

Toro's Reelmaster 3100-D, another popular machine for tees and surrounds, is a triplex mower with cutting units of 27 or 32 inches. It can deliver a cutting height as low as 1/4 inch.

"A lot of courses use greens mowers on tees or surrounds, but many courses want a little more productivity and something a little sturdier and more durable for tees, banks and surrounds," says Brad Hamilton, Toro's marketing manager for Reelmaster products.

In mowing tee areas, for instance, a machine needs to be sturdy enough to handle tee stubs or other small items that golfers might have left behind. Some tee areas also may need more precise mowing.

"Some courses have tee boxes, and you might need to use a walk-behind greens mower to get the corners," says Greif.

Another time to consider walk-behind mowers is after rain.

"If the turf is wet, it may be too wet to use a triplex," says Greif. "It will leave wheel tracks."

When deciding between walk-behind and riding mowers, you have to weigh the trade-offs between more precise cutting and your available staffing.

"Productivity is an issue," says Whurr. "You want to be able to get onto the course and get areas cut to perfection before golfers start to play."

Greif adds: "If I'm going to mow with walking units, I'm going to need a lot more personnel. It's a lot more labor intensive."

Surrounds may vary The turf on green surrounds is maintained at a cutting height similar to that of tees. So mowers for tee areas may also be used for green surrounds.

The type of mower used on surrounds is sometimes dictated by the conditions players have come to expect at a course.

"It depends on the course and how difficult they want the play to be," says Greif. "You need to know whether you want to be able to putt from the surround or use some kind of iron."

Trim mowers provide a closer cut, but some courses use rotary mowers for their surrounds, says Larry Flatt, a golf course consultant in Spring Hill, Kan. "You should use mowers with floating heads that move on the banks and don't scalp the turf," says Flatt.

One example of such equipment is Ransomes' AR 250 rotary mower. "Using a rotary with a (floating) blade," says Whurr, "is a lot easier maintenance from a mechanical point of view. Rotaries also will pull up the thatch."

Whurr also says that a rotary mower with a floating blade is in most cases more than adequate to provide well-maintained tee areas.

Greif says reel mowers are more commonly used on surrounds, but rotaries are often used in areas close to bunkers or other hazards.

Hamilton says some courses prefer rotary mowers because they require less maintenance than the reel units on utility mowers.

"They are able to follow the contours, but they don't cut the grass as well," says Hamilton. "It's a tradeoff."

Many courses, when upgrading their greens-mowing equipment, keep their older machines and use them for maintaining the tee areas and surrounds.

"When the greens mowers are three to five years old, the tractor is still good, and they are still able to do the job on greens and surrounds," says Whurr.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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