Published onJune 17 2019
What goes into machinery preparation to help achieve that golf tournament finish?
When preparing for a tournament it normally revolves around agronomy, reducing height of cut, improving green speed and the visual appearance of the golf course. What we don’t necessarily think about is that machinery maintenance and set up could directly relate to 70% of the factors required to achieving good quality of cut. When we understand this, we understand machinery maintenance and set up plays an important part in both preparation for the tournament finish and to maintain it through the competition and beyond. I have spent many years helping customers in different parts of the world with after cut appearance issues. I understand the first step with any after cut appearance issue is to review machinery setup and maintenance. This review includes understanding limitations, is as much a part of how we prepare machinery for tournaments as what we actually do to set up the machinery.
So good ongoing preventative maintenance is one aspect of machinery preparation for tournaments and reduces the likelihood of breakdowns during the tournament. It is important to have the machinery service schedule completed before the build up to the tournament gets underway. Good service and keeping to maintenance schedules releases time during the immediate build up to the tournament and allows for any potential issues to be corrected. Recognising the technological advancement in modern turf equipment, Lantra will launch a Groundcare Machinery Maintenance suite of courses to provide knowledge and skill to maintain modern turf equipment.
Part of this routine maintenance is correct unit sharpening and set up of mowers which is a key factor to achieving a good quality playing surface and should be an ongoing process throughout the year. A few months before the Saudi International European Tour I was asked to look at a quality of cut issue they had. It was clear from discussions and seeing the issue that the units where not cutting the turf effectively leading to tearing of the grass leaving brown tips and a poor visual appearance.
I delivered training on; correct cylinder grinding, bottom blade top face angle & front face angle, what to check on the units and lastly implemented a grinding regime. After a few weeks the issues grew out and the appearance was dramatically improved for the tournament. Recognising the need for this type of training for turf equipment, Lantra has included a cylinder grinding course as part of the Groundcare Machinery Maintenance suite of courses.
For the tournament it is important to know players, tour and course managers expectations and be able to set the unit to achieve these expectations. For the Saudi International European Tour, we discussed height of cut expectations both leading up to and including the tournament. It was important to give consideration as to what bottom blade will be required to achieve both the height of cut leading into the tournament and the tournament height of cut. Based on expectations we needed to fully understand heights of cut and correct bottom blade choice to achieve this. When choosing the correct bottom blade, it is important to understand the difference between bench set and effective height of cut. The difference between the two will depend on factors such as agronomy, unit weight and weather. The wrong bottom blade which does not allow for the lower effective heights of cut will have a negative result on the tournament finish. To achieve the expectations of the agronomy team for the Saudi International European Tour, I recommended a low height of cut bottom blade. This allowed for a height of cut between 4.5mm to 12mm effective height of cut. Reviewing quality of cut issues and correct bottom blade, unit set up long before the tournament date meant we had time to implement corrective action and support the agronomy staff in achieving a quality finish. Understanding unit set up and how to rectify quality of cut issues on turf equipment is included in the new Groundcare Machinery Maintenance suite of courses.
Preparation is the key to making life a little easier during a tournament. Ideally before the tournament we have carried out the correct servicing. Machinery has been thoroughly checked and any wearable items replaced if necessary. We have brought into service as much of the equipment as possible and ideally, we have back up machines available. We have set the units up correctly having proved this set up prior to the tournament. Importantly we have the correct bottom blade fitted. We can’t factor in for every eventuality but good preparation will reduce the need to crisis manage machinery issues.
During my support for the Saudi International European Tour event I monitored the quality of cut by sending the agronomy team out with a bag identified to their machine or to each individual cutting unit on their machine. Each operator placed some clippings into their bag. Returning to the workshop we were able to view the clippings under a macroscope and identify each unit’s quality of cut. If there is a requirement to fine tune the cutting unit set up, we could identify what machine or what unit required adjustment.
Throughout the tournament it is important to have a methodical process to manage checking, setting and returning machinery ready for the next mowing session. Tournament preparation and support is about starting early, finishing late and hard work in-between. But to see the results of the whole team and know you played a part makes it all worthwhile.
Written by Ian Sumpter