Thursday, April 15, 2010

Here comes the Gang Mower


The following is from Don Mahaffey our project and golf course superintendent extraordinaire. Here is his great post from earlier in the year regarding 19 things a golf course can do to lower maintenance costs. The top of his list included something you don't see every day - a Gang Mower - pictured above. He has received several inquiries from around the world once word got out - here Don's take on how it REDUCED THE FAIRWAY MOWING MAN HOURS BY 50%:

When Mike Nuzzo and I started building Wolf Point, we had a few instructions from our client, the owner of the course. Chief among those instructions was he wanted the course outrageously good and he wanted it maintained in a practical manner. Since we were in a very windy area, hard against the South Texas coast, we knew the course needed some width to be playable. The wind blows all the time here. Both Mike and I are huge fans of the Old Course at St. Andrews and we used her as inspiration for a lot of what we did. One of our challenges was to build this big golf course and yet find a way to keep maintenance costs reasonable. One of the ways we decided to do that was design the course so we could cut the fairways with a large pull behind gang mower.

How does mowing equipment like a large gang mower affect design? We made sure any bridges we needed were large enough to handle the tractor and mowing unit. Turned out that with a transport frame a standard 10 ton bridge was fine. Anywhere we had fairway bunkers close together we made sure there was not only room to pull the gang between them, but room enough to alter the path so as not to create permanent tire ruts. This required bunkers being a minimum of 20 feet apart, which was no problem. If we felt they needed to “play” closer together than that we simply shaped the bunkers to gather shots and beefed up the drainage so that they would still be dry if they were gathering water as well as balls. We knew we were going to have dew paths from greens-tees-fairways and we built those paths so the gang unit could mow them as well while traveling from one hole to the next. To create more width we have a number of shared fairways that melded perfectly with the use of a large production mower.


We use a Toro 7-gang (above), wheel driven unit that we found used and refurbished over the winter. We installed 11-blade reels along with going through each unit and adding a new coat of paint. We have the unit set at .500, ½ inch, and we are very pleased with the quality of cut. We took one of our lightweight fairway mowers out of action and converted the cutting units to thatching reels. So now, we have a dedicated fairway verti-cutting machine. We slice the fairways as time allows and right now the plan is too vert-cut every fairway once a month. I believe one of the keys to a high quality of cut with gang units is too keep the grass thinned out. Puffy turf scalps with any mowing equipment but really scalps with a gang unit since there is no front roller. Keep the turf thinned out and not only does it cut better, it plays better as well. We cut our fairways twice a week and apply a growth regulator in conjunction with foliar feed every 21 days.

We maintain Wolf Point’s 80 acres of fwys, 4 acres of greens, and 10 acres of rough, along with other Ranch duties (like bailing hay) with 4 people plus myself. The only way that’s possible is with equipment that can get the job done well and in a practical time frame. Our gang unit helps us do that and I will be surprised if we didn’t see a little more of this approach as golf participation stagnates while maintenance costs continue to increase.

Check back in a few days for Don's tips to a successful gang mowing operation.


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