Fairways to Heaven

By | May 10th, 2017

Sahalee Country Club, Sammamish, Wash.

A pair of new hybrid mowers is helping Sahalee Country Club keep its course in top condition with fuel-saving, environmentally friendly practices.

With a distinctive Pacific Northwest look, Sahalee Country Club’s narrow fairways, which consist of poa annua and rye grass, are lined by towering Douglas fir, red cedar, and hemlock trees. And the golf course maintenance staff at the Sammamish, Wash., property also strives to ensure that the conditioning and playability of those fairways match the majesty of their surroundings.

But providing those conditions doesn’t occur by chance. It’s up to Director of Golf Course Operations Tom Huesgen, CGCS, and his team to make them happen—and to help them do so while also meeting new environmental objectives, Huesgen turned to a reliable source. In June 2015, Sahalee—which means “high, heavenly ground” in the native Chinook language—switched from the Toro 5410 fairway mower to a Toro hybrid fairway mower, the Reelmaster 5010-H.

“Our volunteers liked that [the hybrid mowers] were easy to use,” says Sahalee’s Director of Golf Course Operations, Tom Huesgen, CGCS (left in photo, with First Assistant Superintendent Marcus Harness).

Sahalee decided to lease the two hybrid fairway mowers for several reasons, including the fuel savings provided by the hybrid technology, its quality of cut, and its flexibility in control. “The hybrid technology helps us save fuel and do the right thing for the environment,” Huesgen explains.

Automatic Savings
With its patented PowerMatch system, the fairway mower’s hybrid drive includes a diesel engine that operates in concert with an in-line motor generator and a self-recharging battery pack. These features enable the Reelmaster 5010-H to match the power that’s generated to the power required for traction and cutting, based on the mowing conditions.

More than 40 horsepower is available for climbing steep hills, verticutting, or scalping, as warranted by cutting conditions. The electric motors on the cutting units, which feature low-friction seals and bearings on the reels, improve the mower’s performance and reduce power requirements. The mower also improves fuel efficiency by offering average fuel savings of 20 percent over conventional fairway mowers, and it improves operating costs and a property’s carbon footprint as well.

While Huesgen says he hasn’t calculated the actual fuel savings the mowers have provided (“It’s hard to quantify down to every individual piece,” he explains), he believes they have enabled Sahalee to use 20 to 25 percent less fuel for mowing fairways.

When the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship was held at Sahalee CC in June 2016, the club’s new hybrid fairway mowers helped to ensure top conditions for the competition won by Brooke Henderson.

“With the hybrid technology, it’s automatic that the machine uses less fuel to operate and run,” he explains.

The hydraulic system offers other advantages as well. “Given its hybrid nature, there’s less involved with the hydraulics, so certain components of the machine are hydraulically driven while others are electrically driven,” Huesgen notes. “So with less hydraulic power, there’s a lot fewer lines and pumps, and less chance for leaks.”

He likes the rechargeable batteries as well. “We haven’t had to change the batteries—they certainly do a good job recharging,” he reports. “It’s a self-generating system, so that works out really well. I don’t know what the battery-life expectancy will be, but we haven’t had to replace one yet.”

Depending on usage, the life expectancy of the sealed, maintenance-free, 48-volt battery pack will vary. According to Toro, however, the pack can be expected to last for more than 2,500 hours of operation.

Huesgen has also been impressed by the mower’s quality of cut. The hybrid fairway mower features interchangeable five- or seven-inch cutting units, in eight- or eleven-blade configurations, allowing properties to create the optimal cut for a wide range of conditions.

“The quality of cut is excellent,” he states. “We run the Toro EdgeMax bedknives on that reel setup. It’s an eight-blade, five-inch [reel]. We check it every day it goes out, but very rarely are we finding that it’s out of line. It’s really good and reliable in terms of holding the quality of cut.”

Sahalee CC’s two new Reelmaster 5010-H hybrid fairway mowers worked in tandem with other Toro equipment during the 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. After having been used for nearly two years at the club, the hybrid mowers have yielded fuel savings of 20 to 25 percent while posing no repair issues.

Huesgen also likes that the noise level of the Reelmaster 5010-H is much lower than the previous generation of conventional mowers.

Tournament-Tested
The Toro hybrid mowers have helped the grounds crew at Sahalee, which caters to golfers of all ages and abilities, keep the fairways on the property’s 27 holes in top condition for its golfers every day. And the two mowers got a true test when the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship was held at Sahalee in June 2016.

Sahalee had numerous volunteers and eight Toro fairway mowers in total on hand for the tournament. Two staff members and six golf course superintendents from other properties who volunteered to help with the tournament mowed the fairways during the competition. “They weren’t all 5010 [hybrids], but our volunteers liked that the Reelmaster 5010-Hs were easy to use,” notes Huesgen. “They were mowing in combination with other mowers.

“It’s simple to operate and user-friendly,” Huesgen adds about the hybrid model. “The Smart Controls are nice in terms of adjusting for your ground speed [and] frequency of cut. And from an operator standpoint, there’s no fatigue from prolonged use. The operators have all enjoyed running that mower.”

As part of a total force of 40 to 50 volunteers from the region, Toro, as well as its local distributor, Kent, Wash.-based Western Equipment & Irrigation Distributors, Inc., also provided equipment and technical support to the maintenance staff for the tournament. “Our relationship with our distributor has always been good,” Huesgen notes. “They’ve been in the area for a number of years, and they’re just a phone call away.”

Sahalee Country Club, Sammamish, Wash.

Selling Points
So far, Huesgen reports, ongoing maintenance for the Reelmaster 5010-Hs, which are used three times a week in a span of six months at the year-round facility, has been routine. “We grind and sharpen the reels and cutting units,” he reports. “And we lubricate the mowers regularly.”

In addition, he notes, maintenance is reduced significantly with the mower’s move from hydraulic to electric cutting units, which eliminates hoses, fittings, fluids, and more than 100 potential leak points. And an onboard InfoCenter gives operators and technicians easy access to system information, alerts, service reminders and diagnostics, while also providing precise control of reel speed and clip rate.

When Huesgen was considering a switch to the 5010-H, the lease package that Toro offered influenced his decision. “We owned the previous mowers, but decided to go with a lease option to replace a lot of old equipment,” he reports. He traveled to the California desert to demo the mower and talk to superintendents who had been testing it for about a year. To teach Sahalee’s staff to use the mowers after they were delivered, Toro offered field training as well as online manuals.

Perhaps the biggest selling points for Huesgen have been the reliability of the hybrid mowers and the playability of the golf courses they’ve been used on. “[They’ve] been solid; no complaints whatsoever,” he says. “We have our regular service intervals, but beyond that—no repairs, no issues.”

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