Last week I, along with several other trade press journalists / editors, were duly invited to attend the official announcement of a unique partnership between the Wentworth Club and John Deere.
This new, exclusive five-year partnership is for the supply of golf course maintenance equipment to the world-famous West, East and Edinburgh Championship Courses at Virginia Water in Surrey, from spring 2019.
Wentworth Club has been the host venue since 1984 for the PGA Championship tournament, which is regarded as the flagship event on the European Tour. The 2019 BMW PGA Championship is being held on the West Course from September 19 to 22, with John Deere and its supplying dealer Farol Ltd, providing additional technical and equipment support.
The new course maintenance fleet consists of over 140 machines including mowers for tees, surrounds and approaches, fairways, greens and rough, as well as compact and utility tractors, Gator utility vehicles and the latest state of the art GPS PrecisionSprayers.
(Left to right) Carlos Aragones, John Deere Limited Managing Director Jonathan Henry, Wentworth Club General Manager Neil Coulson and Kenny Mackay.
“We are delighted to welcome the John Deere company to Wentworth as our exclusive partner in the supply of greenkeeping and grounds machinery through its regional dealer Farol,” said Wentworth Director of Golf & Greenkeeping Kenny Mackay. “This agreement represents a significant investment to ensure our fleet is always at the leading edge of technology and innovation.”
John Deere has been a leader in GPS technology in the agricultural industry for many years and is now developing systems specifically for golf course maintenance use, with Wentworth Club being an early adopter. The new advanced technology sprayer delivers great environmental benefits by applying inputs far more accurately and only to predetermined target areas. This significantly reduces overall chemical usage and can potentially cut spray costs by up to 15 per cent.
(Left to right) Jonathan Henry, Carlos Aragones, Kenny Mackay and Farol Ltd Managing Director Matt Vellacott
Using AutoTrac, the sprayer steers itself automatically to an accuracy of 2.5cm using RTK (real-time kinetic) satellite guidance. It also features individual nozzle control and Wireless Data Transfer, which enables spray records and application maps to be sent from the machine to the John Deere Operations Centre website or mobile app, where they can be remotely accessed at any time.
The new machinery fleet has been purchased on a planned replacement cycle in line with Wentworth Club policy, using a John Deere Financial operating lease specifically tailored to reduce the lifelong cost of ownership.
Members of the Wentworth Club greenkeeping team with Director of Golf & Greenkeeping Kenny Mackay (front centre) and Courses Manager Dan Clarke (front, third from left).
“The world of course management and greenkeeping is changing fast and John Deere is at the forefront of these developments,” said Carlos Aragones, John Deere’s Turf & Golf Sales & Marketing Manager for Europe, CIS, North Africa and the Near & Middle East.
“John Deere equipment helps to maintain many of the world’s greatest golf courses, and we are honoured to now include Wentworth Club in that prestigious company. We look forward to building a long and productive partnership with the Wentworth team, and to the Club becoming one of our leading strategic partners in the golf industry across Europe and beyond.”
(Left to right), Kenny Mackay and Carlos Aragones
After the official pictures were taken, we the press were then taken on a tour of the facility. Being my first ever visit to Wentworth, and as an ex-greenkeeper, I was very keen to set foot on some of the greens and see for myself the presentation of the course. Kenny Mackay (Director of Golf) and Daniel Clarke (Course Manager) then drove us around the course and stopped by one of the greens to show us how the SubAir system works.
Essentially the SubAir system can control the amounts of oxygen and moisture in the soil profile. Oxygen and moisture sensors placed below the golf green surface report real-time soil conditions’ data to the control system. Automated operation of the SubAir Sport System will activate according to set soil condition parameters set by Daniel and his technicians. With active monitoring, the systems can respond to sudden changes in soil conditions. In a sudden downpour the vacuum systems activate to eliminate excess moisture in the soil profile. Successive high temperature days that increase soil temperature will activate aeration to moderate subsoil temperatures. With TurfWatch Technology, turf managers can access the field conditions via smart phones, tablets or computers. The technology retains the historical data to provide information of the impact of agronomic practices, natural phenomena and weather events on turf conditions.
As for the sward quality Germinal’s 007 creeping bent is arguably the best-of-the-best: it was developed in the US using 24 parent plants to produce a single cultivar with a wide genetic base. It is this background which enables it to deliver all the qualities of a top-rated creeping bentgrass (prostrate growth habit, high shoot density and good wear tolerance) in a range of conditions - from the extreme heat of Morocco to the harsh cold of Western Siberia. Unlike older creeping bent grasses the 007 has the benefit of doing all this with a lower requirement for nitrogen and moisture making it perfect for modern management where environmental and economic sustainability are key. The variety is known to be Dollar Spot resistant and shows good all-round disease resistance especially to Anthracnose.
The greens are maintained at a HOC of between 3-4mm depending on the time of the year and stimp at around 13ft during the summer months, so offering a challenging putting surface for those who play this historic course.
The level of perfection at Wentworth is there for all to see. The sixty strong greenkeeping team are kept very busy looking after the whole resort and I am sure the combination of the dedication and skills of both parties will bode well for the aspirations and future of this historic golf course during the duration of this unique partnership.