Sparks a debate
by TurfPro Editor, Steve Gibbs
Steve Gibbs

The results of a players' survey in Scotland revealed that Hamilton Academical's artificial playing surface is the least popular in the country.


You may have seen the news that Graeme Glen's surface at Stirling Albion was voted by players in the Scottish football leagues as the best pitch north of the border - with Graeme himself named Groundsman of the Year.


Many congratulations to Graeme for a well-deserved win. A win which was voted for by the people who should know best how good a surface truly is.


However, unusually for awards of this sort, rather than just announcing the winners, the app which was used by the players for voting has released a full rundown of all the clubs in the Scottish leagues. Which means that someone has of course finished bottom.


That ignominy has befallen Hamilton Academical FC and the artificial surface they play on at their New Douglas Park ground. Their surface scored an average of 1.18 out of five. The second worst scoring pitch was Kilmarnock's Rugby Park, another artificial one, which averaged 1.70 out of five.


This announcement that players have down-voted artificial surfaces en masse has sparked some serious debate regards to what degree should non-natural surfaces should be used in the Scottish game?


For a start, winning groundsman Graeme Glen, when being interviewed by Sky Sports News regarding his triumph said he would be "horrified" if he ever had to replace his natural surface with an artificial one. He added, "I firmly believe that football should be played on turf."


Then PFA Scotland chief Fraser Wishart said it is time clubs started listening to top-flight players when they say they do not enjoy playing on them.


He was quoted by BT Sport as saying, "We want to have a proper debate about the level that artificial surfaces should be used. The results of this survey say the players in the Premiership don’t want to play on it."


Fraser did acknowledge the role a synthetic surface can play in local community use and as a revenue stream for smaller clubs saying, “When they are being used day in, day out for community use, that’s fantastic but that means the surface on a Saturday isn’t as good as they do deteriorate quicker.


So we need to open up a proper debate and club owners and decision-makers have to listen to what the players are saying. They have voted in numbers to say they don’t like artificial surfaces and that is something that should be looked at.”


Then yesterday, newly knighted Sir Kenny Dalglish weighed into the debate via his column in the Sunday Post. Again whilst acknowledging the revenue generation side to the pitches, Sir Kenny is clearly another advocate for natural surfaces. He concluded his piece by saying "My own personal view is that nothing will ever beat playing on grass. That’s what football should be played on."


Now to be fair to Hamilton Academical, they did release a statement the day after the survey results came out which said they are investing in a new Greenfields MX pitch to replace their controversial stinker. Described by themselves as a "FIFA-approved, state-of-the-art, 3G pitch", the new surface represents a £750,000 investment. Hamilton's head groundsman William Watson said, “We have left no stone unturned in our drive to bring the best playing surface available to Hamilton Accies."


Presuming there isn't an outright ban on artificial surfaces in Scotland, this could well be the simple solution to the terrible reputation which they are currently suffering from - build better ones!


If as the manufacturers state, the technology behind them is improving all the time, clubs who want to use them should at least be obliged to keep up to date with the very best available. Surfaces shouldn't be allowed to deteriorate and underperform as they clearly have this season at Hamilton.

Most in the industry, however much they agree with Sir Kenny that football should be played grass, would probably accept that synthetic pitches in one form or another are here to stay. Indeed, the likelihood is that they will become more prevalent in the future. That being the case, minimum standard rules should be enforced much more keenly.

Graeme Glen is Groundsman of the Year
Stirling Albion's winning groundsman, Graeme Glen was interviewd on Sky Sports News

League Two side's pitch comes out on top of vote by players - with Hamilton's artificial pitch coming last.


Stirling Albion have come out on top in a survey to identify Scotland's best football pitch.


The League Two side were triumphant after a study of the playing surfaces at all 42 of the Scottish football league sides with their groundsman, Graeme Glen, named as Groundsman of the Year.


Hamilton Academical FC's artificial pitch at New Douglas Park was cited as the worst in the country.


Players were asked to rate the pitch after every away game on a specially commissioned app called PitchRater APP.


Sky Sports reports that the study was a joint venture between PFA Scotland, the Scottish FA and Sports Lab, a company specialising in sports surface development and testing.


Peterhead came second in the study and Queen's Park were third, meaning lower league clubs held all of the top three places.


Motherwell were rated as having the best pitch in the Premiership.


Sky says parties involved in the study will now sit down with the clubs to discuss recommendations to improve the standard of playing surfaces in Scotland

From London to Connecticut
Andrew Kerr, Course Manager at Surbiton Golf Club in London

Two members of BIGGA are celebrating after achieving their Master Greenkeeper certificates, marking them out as leading lights within the turf management industry.


From London to Connecticut, two members of the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA) are celebrating after achieving their Master Greenkeeper certificates, marking them out as leading lights within the turf management industry.


Andrew Kerr, Course Manager at Surbiton Golf Club in London, and Anthony Girardi, Golf Course Superintendent at Rockrimmon Country Club in Connecticut, have become just the 73rd and 74th recipients of the Master Greenkeeper certificate.


Master Greenkeeper certificates are achieved through a three-stage process. To be eligible, BIGGA members must have been working in the industry for 10 years, with three spent in a head greenkeeper, course manager or superintendent role.



Andrew Kerr (above), 39, was raised in County Antrim, Ireland, and hails from an agricultural background. He began his career working on golf courses in Northern Ireland, before making the switch to England, finally settling in to the course manager role at Surbiton.


Andrew said: “I feel the Master Greenkeeper qualification is important for the industry as it highlights great work, knowledge and abilities in a small industry within a global scale. Each of the stages helped me push my own knowledge and develop excellent standards from a course and administration point of view, which I hope to continue to do now and in the future.”



Anthony (Tony) Girardi (above) 49, has been in the golf business for 29 years, beginning his career as an intern while attending the University of Rhode Island. He graduated in 1992 with a degree in Environmental Science and earned a role as assistant golf course superintendent at Woodway Country Club in Connecticut.


After three years he became golf course superintendent at Rockrimmon Country Club, a position he has held for the past 24 years.


Tony said: “I had always heard of the Master Greenkeeper programme through the years, but it wasn’t until I attended BTME in 2016 that I became more aware of the certificate and what it entailed. You are never too old to learn, and in a very short two-year period, I can safely say that I have learned a great deal about course management from my peers in the UK and Ireland.


“The Master Greenkeeper process is an invaluable experience that allows you to grow both personally and professionally.”


Stuart Green, BIGGA’s head of member learning, said: “Congratulations to Andrew and Tony on becoming the latest recipients of Master Greenkeeper status. Our Master Greenkeeper certificate is now in its 28th year and yet only 74 golf course managers and superintendents from all over the world have made the grade, highlighting what an incredible achievement this is. Master Greenkeeper is a learning experience and I would recommend any golf course manager, who aspires to the highest standards, gives it a go.”

Joins from John Deere
David Hart

Kubota Holdings Europe has announced the appointment of David Hart as managing director of Kubota (U.K.) Ltd.


Kubota Holdings Europe has announced the appointment of David Hart as managing director of Kubota (U.K.) Ltd.


With over 28 years of leadership experience, Kubota says David Hart brings a wealth of knowledge and experience of the agricultural and construction industries. After graduating with a degree in Agricultural Engineering, David started his career in agricultural construction & grounds care equipment at Ben Burgess & Co. In 1990 he joined John Deere and after several sales and marketing roles, became the division manager for Commercial and Consumer Equipment in 2004, managing both sales and marketing for turf and utility equipment (homeowner, commercial and golf).


David built a strong commercial track record in sales and marketing for the UK and Ireland and in 2011 was appointed regional leader for strategic and key account management, responsible for John Deere’s agricultural and non-agricultural strategic and key account business in Europe, Near Middle East, North Africa and CIS. During this time he was also a member of the John Deere Ag & Turf Regional Leadership Team.

Dai Watanabe, President & CEO of Kubota in Europe, said, “We are very proud of the fact that we have a leading market position in the UK & Ireland with our current product portfolio. Our ambitions reach even further than that. With David on board we have a leader that can support that ambition by bringing his extensive experience and knowledge to identify and exceed our dealers and customers’ needs and requirements.”

On his appointment, David Hart said, “Kubota has a deserved reputation as market leader in many areas. We have a big opportunity to grow further and continue to diversify into new sectors, bringing our strong business values and quality delivery to match the demands and rightly high expectations of our dealers and end user clients. Kubota’s brand, values and proven quality are facets I have respected as a competitor over many years, and I am excited to be part of the team that will take these to the next level.”

Via the newly-designed website
SALTEX registration is now open

SALTEX takes place at the NEC, Birmingham, on 31 October and 1 November and visitors can now register their attendance for free via the newly-designed website.


Event organisers have announced that visitor registration for SALTEX 2018 is now officially open at www.iogsaltex.com.


The event takes place at the NEC, Birmingham, on 31 October and 1 November and visitors can now register their attendance for free via the newly-designed website.



The organisers say the new website has been built to provide a user-friendly experience with improved navigation and functionality throughout, allowing both visitors and exhibitors to access all the information they need in preparation for the show.


In a statement, the organisers of SALTEX said, "The site is compatible with many browsers and all mobile devices meaning that visitors and exhibitors alike will have easy access to the site and stay informed with the latest show news and exhibitor event previews. With over 230 exhibitors signed up to date, visitors to the website will see an extensive exhibitor list complete with individual profiles - each containing relevant information on products, services and show offers."


Visitors will also be able to find out more about new show attractions as well as features such as Learning LIVE; Outdoor demonstrations; the SALTEX College Cup; Pathology & Soil Science LIVE; Ask the Expert; the Job Clinic; and the Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG) 10th annual Industry Awards celebration.


SALTEX exhibitors will also notice some improvements to the portal. All of the exhibitor forms, such as the Health and Safety Declaration and the Risk Assessment Form, have now all been digitalised, meaning that exhibitors can fill out the relevant forms online without having to print them off.


Visitors can register to attend SALTEX via the website. Visitors will receive a confirmation email with their badge to print and take along to the show, to gain free entry.

At the 'Wembley of Bowls'
Mark Audin

Mark Audin is preparing the green at the Waterloo Hotel, Blackpool, for the biggest national tournament in the crown green bowling calendar with help from the Dennis FT510 and SISIS Dart.


Mark Audin is preparing the green at the Waterloo Hotel, Blackpool, for the biggest national tournament in the crown green bowling calendar with help from the Dennis FT510 and SISIS Dart.


Mark Audin


Regarded as the ‘Wembley’ of crown green bowling, The Waterloo Hotel has been hosting tournaments for well over 100 years. In particular, The Waterloo Championships has been in existence since 1907 and this year it sees a phenomenal 512 entries from all over the country. Qualifying starts in July and concludes with the final 8 competing to get their hands on the famous trophy on 26 September.


Mark Audin has been working at The Waterloo for 10 years and for the last 5 he has held the position of bowls manager. He has a number of tasks under his remit but Mark’s main priority is to focus on the green at The Waterloo - which is a year round job, as he explains.


“Out of season when the green isn’t being played on, I cut down to about 7-8mm and during the winter we can leave it slightly longer at 10mm. From May onwards I like to keep it at around 7mm and that will gradually go down to about 6mm and possibly 5mm depending on how it is playing towards the end of the season. There is a misconception that you need to take the grass on a bowling green right down and scalp it, but that really isn’t the case as long as you regularly verticut and generally look after it all year.”


For the essential task of verticutting, Mark relies on the Dennis FT510 interchangeable cassette cylinder mower.


Waterloo Hotel bowls green


“In the lead up to the Championships we will verticut with the FT510 once every four days in four different directions so that the playing surface will be completely smooth. Therefore, going into the Championships the green will become quicker and quicker to play on.


“We’ve got the sorrel roller cassette, the 10 bladed cylinder, the scarifier and verticutter Tungsten tipped cassette and it is all we really need here - it’s my complete maintenance tool. The FT510 is fantastic and it is so easy to use - one cassette out, one cassette in and off you go. In the past we have had machines which take half an hour just to change one cassette.


“I also really like the click adjustment on the FT510 for the height of cut, it is easy to set-up and is adjusted by 0.25mm with every click. Again, with other machines you will have to get a spanner out but on the FT510 it is adjusted in seconds. The fuel consumption also seems to be better than any others I have used in the past too.”


For reducing turf compaction at The Waterloo, Mark uses the SISIS Dart - which is an independently powered vertical action aerator. 


“We normally start using the Dart in July when the ground starts getting hard. We have a number of various interchangeable tines and we tend to go about 3 inches deep into the surface. It does a brilliant job at breaking the surface up, enabling you to get some moisture in and it really helps to reduce thatch and compaction. We’ve always had a bit of an issue with compaction because we have so many people on the green throughout the year,” he said.


“I would say that it is arguably the most used green in bowls and with all the games throughout the season, the green stands up remarkably well. That is, in part, due to the quality of the machines - I’ve tired others in the past but none are nearly as good as the Dennis and SISIS equipment.”

Assumes role vacated by the retired Nigel Lovatt
Mike Turnbull

Mike Turnbull takes responsibility for Reesink customers, the dealer network and retail partners located from the north east to the north west of England.


Mike Turnbull has assumed the role of the recently retired Nigel Lovatt and takes responsibility for Reesink customers, the dealer network and retail partners located from the north east to the north west of England, or as Mike refers to it “from the Wash to the Wirral”.


Mike is no stranger to the geographical area spanning from Nottingham to North Wales, having covered the same in his 20-year role with Toro Spellbrook.


Mike says, “I was over the moon to accept this role. It is a great position, a great area and I am stepping into the role of a great colleague. Nigel did some fantastic work here and I am really looking forward to continuing and adding to that.”


Mike’s role will see him focus on the grounds machinery ranges from Toro and Reesink and will see him working closely with Jeff Anguige, national sales manager.


Mike continues, “I know this area well as it’s one I used to cover in my position working with Toro for Spellbrook, so to some I will be a familiar face. My background and experience with Toro means I bring with me a lot of knowledge and expertise of the brand, and my two years working with Reesink puts me in good stead too.”


Jeff Anguige, national sales manager at Reesink Turfcare, agrees. “Mike was not only the logical choice for the position, he was also the best. He understands the Toro brand and knows how Reesink works as a company. He has big shoes to fill left by Nigel, but there’s no question he will carry on the good work.”

Latest authorised dealers
Ed Scambler, left, with Polaris’ district manager Neil Everett

Based in the village of Bourn, between Cambridge and St Neots, Scamblers cover Cambridge, Norfolk and Suffolk.


AJ & R Scambler & Sons Ltd, better known as Scamblers, have been appointed authorised Polaris dealers.


Ed Scambler, left, with Polaris’ district manager Neil Everett


Established in 1974 and based in rural premises in the village of Bourn, between Cambridge and St Neots, Scamblers specialises in supplying compact tractors, utility vehicles, bank tractors, mowers and turfcare and groundcare machinery for every aspect of turf and grounds maintenance.

“We’re very pleased to have such a highly regarded dealer join the Polaris dealer network,” says Ben Murray, Polaris UK and Ireland National Sales Manager, “and we’re looking forward to working together to meet the demands of Polaris customers in the area.”

Scamblers cover Cambridge, Norfolk and Suffolk and whilst their main market had traditionally been groundcare and horticulture they have expanded to meet the needs of agricultural businesses, gamekeeping and golf courses in their area.

“It was after setting up demonstrations with Polaris to existing customers we reached the agreement to become authorised Polaris dealers,” says Scamblers’ director, Ed Scambler. “The customers said how much they liked the Polaris Rangers and were impressed by what they saw as superior quality in the ATVs and UTVs. We’re very much looking forward to selling the product.”

Hands-on machinery day
Acorn Tractors and CTM staff at the BLEC training session

Acorn Tractors recently joined forces with staff from Charterhouse Turf Machinery (CTM) for an in-depth training session on the BLEC range of specialist equipment.


Newly appointed BLEC dealer, Acorn Tractors from Derbyshire, recently joined forces with staff from Charterhouse Turf Machinery (CTM) for an in-depth training session on the BLEC range of specialist landscaping and turfcare equipment.


Acorn Tractors and CTM staff at the BLEC training session

BLEC was purchased by Redexim almost two years ago and is now a division within CTM. In that time the range of specialised landscaping and turfcare equipment has been streamlined and re-engineered by the Redexim team to feature a wealth of features.

The day was the brainchild of division manager Curtis Allen to allow the combined staff to trial and test the range in the field to better assist and advise current and future customers. The day featured a broad spectrum of BLEC machinery including the Cultipack Seeder, the BLECavator 145 compact stoneburier, Power Box Rake and Laser Grader 1500TPP.

The Charterhouse team gained valuable time and field experience with machines for a variety of applications under the guidance of Acorn Tractors staff who have been involved with BLEC products for many years.

Of the event Curtis Allen said, “This was a great opportunity for the whole Charterhouse team to gain a thorough understanding of the products and this market sector. It was a day that all involved found very helpful and we’d like to pass our thanks onto Acorn Tractors owner Julian Simpson and his team for not only hosting, but also supporting the day.”

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