|The Majestic at Lake Walden’s Superintendent, Justin Peckens (above), has a new addition to the club’s mowing fleet that’s been a strong and reliable performer from the first day on the job.|
The latest addition to this Michigan club’s lineup of moving equipment has already proved its worth in an extremely productive cleanup role.
Pro sports franchises now waste little time getting their best new players into their lineups. No team has the luxury any more to “break in” young talent or let it get “seasoned” in the minor leagues—if you can do the job, you’re expected to do it right away, in the toughest conditions and against the best competition.
It’s become the same in the golf business—especially during the last years of this past decade, when the economic downturn put a premium on getting immediate and full returns from any capital investment that could be made. So when The Majestic at Lake Walden, a championship 27-hole facility in Hartland, Mich., needed to add a new rough mower in 2009 to a course and grounds equipment fleet that maintains 330 acres within a 1,400-acre parcel of forests, meadows and wetlands, the pressure was on to make sure the right selection was made.
Knowing What Was Needed
The Majestic, which opened in 1994, did have several things going for it that would help guide it to a good decision. First, the club is blessed with a wealth of course-and-grounds expertise that starts from the very top—its Operating Partner/General Manager, Bill Fountain, has a degree in Turfgrass Science from Michigan State University and began his career as a superintendent, before moving into the building and management sides of golf course operations.
Secondly, The Majestic had good experience with the equipment it had already been using on its course. The mowing fleet it had built up over the years primarily consisted of Toro equipment, because of a solid relationship the course had developed with Spartan Distributors, the Toro dealer for the state of Michigan.
In particular, two Toro Groundsmaster® 455-D rotary mowers purchased in The Majestic’s first years of operation had done yeoman duty on the course, with one still producing over 500 hours of work, and the other over 400 hours, nearly 15 years later. But these mowers, like several others that had been added to The Majestic’s fleet in subsequent years, were now starting to show signs of too much wear, and fast approaching the ends of what had been very useful lives.
“Our facility is unique in many ways,” Fountain notes. “It is 12 miles to loop it in its entirety, so productivity and efficiency are critical for our Grounds Department. Like many facilities, we have purchased and maintained mowers for many years, and at some point, the costs to repair [a piece of equipment] exceeds the value of the unit.”
In 2008, Fountain and The Majestic’s Grounds Department, headed by Superintendent Justin Peckens, began the process of demo’ing a variety of new rough mowers, to find a new one that could best be expected to step in and provide immediate production and allow the club to phase out some of its veteran performers.
Given the existing market and economic conditions, the criteria for passing this latest round of field-testing would be more stringent than ever, Fountain stressed. “We were hopeful this [new] mower would not only save labor dollars, but also make us much more efficient on several levels, including fuel savings and reliability,” he says.
|Hours to mow rough||2007||2008||2009|
|Toro Groundsmaster 455-D (bought 1994) 519||12||N/A|
|Toro Groundsmaster 455-D (bought 1995)||406||294||N/A|
|[Other manufacturer’s equipment]||377||552||224|
|[Other manufacturer’s equipment]||285||265||286|
|Toro Groundsmaster 345||96||346||42|
|Toro Groundsmaster 3500-D Sidewinder||523||541||367|
|Toro Groundsmaster 4100-D||N/A||N/A||391|
An All-Star Rookie Year
After the extensive tryout process, one rough mower—Toro’s Groundsmaster 4100-D—clearly stood out to Fountain and Peckens as the new piece they wanted to add to their team. The 4100, they felt, offered the best overall potential to bring new savings and efficiencies to their operations, through features that included:
- Greater cutting width (10 1/2 feet);
- Power to get through the toughest terrain (117 foot-pounds of torque at 58 hp and 2,600 rpm);
- Significant potential fuel savings through a more efficient engine (Kubota® 4-cylinder liquid-cooled, turbo-charged diesel, 148.5 cu. in./2.0 liter displacement);
- A shallow deck design to force quicker clipping dispersal and accept more grass on a faster basis;
- Nimble maneuvering;
- Superior traction;
Greater operator visibility.
Once the new 4100 was delivered to The Majestic, little time was wasted on ceremonial niceties—it was slapped on the rear, told to “get in there,” and literally sent right out into the thick of things.
|The Majestic at Lake Walden offers a 27-hole championship course over 330 acres within a 1,400-acre parcel. Players can play any nine-hole combinations and are treated to a pontoon boat ride across the lake when they finish at Hole #9 or start at Hole #10.|
As shown by the Grounds Department’s log of total annual equipment hours, the 4100 logged 391 hours cutting rough at The Majestic during its first full year of action—more than any other existing piece of equipment. The new mower, in fact, more than fully replaced the two aging Toro rotary mowers—which had combined for just over 300 hours the previous year, but could now be given a well-deserved and dignified retirement from further duty after 15 years of loyal service.
With just one year of real-time production under its belt, the Groundsmaster 4100-D has already posted some eye-opening numbers, and holds out the promise of a truly long and great career as a star performer for The Majestic.
“We have become 30% more efficient by the purchase of the 4100,” Fountain says. “We have reduced nearly 900 hours of rough mowing, a savings of over $10,000 in labor. We have also saved thousands of dollars on fuel costs and significantly reduced the hours on our other equipment—and extending the life expectancy of these other mowing units is a real positive in these challenging economic times.
“At the end of the day,” Fountain adds, “by finding the right new mower for our mowing needs, we have come out way ahead.”