Flexibility is the name of the game for the small greenkeeping team that looks after the two extensive courses at the Woodlands Golf and Country Club on the edge of Bristol. Whether cutting the beautiful lake-fringed greens or building a new car park, you will find the same people keeping the place looking good while steadily taking it forward.
Wander into the maintenance building (neatly concealed in the middle of the course) and you will often find Course Manager Mark Powell also maintaining the machinery. It is then imperative that the hardware is as flexible as he and his team – and that makes good sense of using a Trimax Pegasus S4 from Lister Wilder to look after the many acres of rolling semi-rough.
The club has come a long way since its original transformation from heavy farmland some 40 years ago. Since 1999, when it was acquired by brothers Ian and David Knipe, the pace of change has accelerated with a progressive rebuild which in 2018 delivered not one but two fine courses with expansive greens built to USGA specifications.
With the benefit of landfill to raise and contour the site as well as fund the work, what used to be an 18-hole golf course in need of attention is now 36 holes that drain to perfection. Both the Masters and Signature courses have benefited from a £5 million pound spend and close only when blanketed in snow. The club has come a long way – and yet the largely pay-and-play clientele can still get a weekday round for £16 and a weekend circuit for £20. They can also for £15 hire one of a large fleet of buggies and relax after their round in a comfortable clubhouse.
The club is located close to one of the UK’s main motorway crossroads, which puts a legion of travelling golfers within an hour’s journey. It is also seeing the benefit of the scrapping of the toll on the Severn bridges and the sad closure in recent years of several courses in the immediate area of South Wales.
“The build quality is excellent and it delivers a good quality of cut at a reasonable speed.”Mark Powell – Course Manager
The fact that many pay-and-play golfers have to fit their golf into busy schedules has persuaded the club to ease back from the time consuming pastime of hunting for balls in deep rough. Semi-rough fringing the fairways is, therefore, the name of the game at Woodlands which is also relaxed about its dress code. But in case you think its an easy playing proposition, there are more than 30 bunkers and ten out-of-bounds lakes waiting to trap you. Most spectacular of all is the Signature’s 17th green, which exists as an island accessed only by a narrow track.
The Trimax Pegasus S4 was designed for grass cutting challenges like this one and works all day at a steady 6mph behind a 100hp tractor, delivering 40 to 45mm semi-rough.
“This is our second Pegasus,” says Mark. “The first one did more than ten years’ service and we were very happy with it. The build quality is excellent and it delivers a good quality of cut at a reasonable speed. It hugs the contours of our undulating ground well and you can use it even on quite steep banks with no problems.”
Given his own second role as mechanic, Mark likes to maintain a stock of basic parts, which in the case of the Trimax he draws from Mark Quartermain at Lister Wilder’s Cirencester depot. “If something does go wrong then I know I can get it moving again very quickly, and I simply replenish our own parts stock. Having said that, the Trimax is a very reliable machine and all it usually requires is a daily grease.”
Trimax has minimised that routine with 15% less grease points and has also introduced sealed spindles on the Pegasus. The result is a healthy 35% overall reduction in maintenance costs.
Mark was one of the Knipe brothers’ first recruits in 1999 when he joined to work alongside his father Roger who was at that time Head Greenkeeper. “It has been a massive job but a great privilege to be involved in a project like this from the very beginning,” he says. “Not many greenkeepers get the opportunity to do that, and to work with owners with a vision who continue to invest both their time and money to achieve it. They put their faith in me and I have learned a lot.”
He adds: “We have done it all with a small but hard working team of greenkeepers and the guys who work with me deserve full credit. There isn’t much that we don’t take on ourselves.”
He also applauds the input from golf course construction specialists MJ Smith who have had a key role to play in the contouring that has given the Woodlands Golf and Country Club the beautiful environment that it enjoys today.