Faster and cleaner rolling
When you have achieved greens that some consider to be amongst the best in Britain, you need a well planned greenkeeping regime to keep them that way. For James Bledge, Course and Estates Manger, at Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club at Deal in Kent, the plan necessitates regular use of a roller.
Over recent months James believes he has found the Rolls Royce of rollers with the purchase of a Salsco HP11-III, a brand that has subsequently made Lister Wilder its sole UK importer and supplier for greens rollers.
“Royal Cinque Ports is a big site and there are time pressures in managing it, so when it comes to a roller, big is beautiful,” says James. “I wanted something that would do the job well and do it fast with no mess. The roller we had previously was 47 inches almost half the width of the (73-inch) Salsco, and it dropped a lot of grass and also sand after we had top dressed. Rolling the whole course took nearer five hours and sometimes needed two staff, one of whom was clearing up the mess. With the Salsco it’s a four-hour job and needs just one member of staff because it leaves no mess.”
It’s a great roller and it’s also very good news for me that they have taken on Lister Wilder as their UK supplierJames Bledge Course and Estates Manger
The one hour time saving on an individual rolling operation adds up over a year for a course that uses its roller once and sometimes twice each week. James reckons he gets 70 staff hours back for other work through a year.
Another significant problem with the previous roller was that it sometimes struggled at the bottom of a slope, especially on damp mornings, while James says the Salsco “goes up anything”. It achieves that by virtue of three independently driven rollers which oscillate to achieve 100% ground contact. It also means that the roller follows the undulations designed into the turf and smooths the surface without changing it.
James has been particularly impressed by the brushes, which he says clean the roller so effectively that it can go onto a green the week following top dressing. He also likes the overall sturdiness of the metalwork, the operator comfort that it offers and the fact that it is equipped with an LED light to allow for early starts or late finishes.
As one of a clutch of top links courses clustered around the very toe of England, Royal Cinque Ports has plenty of illustrious competition. Reviewers consistently refer to it as having ‘superb’ greens, and they play a big part in attracting some 1,600 members while hosting all of 40,000 rounds a year. Periods between lockdowns were busier than ever as those who habitually take their winter golf in Portugal opted for a top UK course instead.
“We have worked hard over the past eight years to improve our greens and have made a lot of progress,” says James, who runs with a team of 11 greenkeepers (and two dogs). “We have a some rogue grasses amongst our fescue bent sward and are trying to introduce a lot more fescues to tip the balance while reducing organic matter and cutting down on fungicides,” he says.
“We try to maintain green speeds and keep the plant photosynthesising as long as possible by maintaining a longer leaf blade, so we avoid cutting the greens short during winter when there is less sunlight. That’s where the roller comes in to keep the green speeds up while avoiding the stress on the plant from too much cutting. While a lot of parkland courses can accept going to winter greens and tees, we try to produce a summer golf experience all year round and the roller has a big part to play in that.”
The course has, says James, been “catapulted forward” by work over recent years to the paths infrastructure, making it more attractive for golfers as they move from one green to the next tee. The overall experience was one that attracted many favourable comments in previous years when Royal Cinque Ports hosted the world’s largest amateur golf competition, the Halford Hewitt Cup, with a field of 640.
The Salsco was very much in the thick of the preparations. “It’s a great roller and it’s also very good news for me that they have taken on Lister Wilder as their UK supplier,” says James. “I have dealt with the company a lot in the past and they are very reliable.”