The R&A - Working for Golf

Optimising machinery

Make the most of your machinery by identifying your real needs.

Having the appropriate machinery, in good operating condition, under the control of correctly trained personnel, is an essential factor in building a successful golf course maintenance programme.

The portfolio of machinery you will require will be dictated by the particular needs and expectations of your golf course and customers. Having the right machinery will positively contribute to your business; providing greater efficiency, a better end product and value for money. In order to ensure that you invest wisely in your machinery acquisitions, it is important to first thoroughly assess your own course requirements. The following process will help you develop a good understanding of what equipment you will need to optimise your operations:

  • review the turf management targets you have for your golf course. How far are you from achieving the standards of surface presentation you aspire to?  If you are not meeting your targets, consider to what extent this is due to a lack of appropriate machinery
  • conduct a full appraisal of current management practices and the machinery used. Evaluate whether the current portfolio of equipment is fit for purpose and identify any areas where further improvement is required
  • in close consultation with the Greenkeeping team, and also perhaps in collaboration with a professional independent maintenance consultant, formulate a list of required additional or replacement machinery items
  • review this list and identify your priority acquisitions. Consult with the financial team at your facility to set budgets for each item, while also considering potential costs of storage, operation, maintenance and depreciation
  • begin speaking with different suppliers to determine what machinery is currently being offered to meet your needs. Arrange for on-site demonstrations at your course and request a full overview of features, operation, benefits and limitations. You may wish to request further information on service intervals, running costs and maintenance expenses to more accurately forecast the full cost implications of purchase
  • discuss your ideas with other local golf facilities to see if they can provide any helpful advice or guidance. Their experiences can be invaluable in helping you to make a good choice
  • consider hybrid or fully electric alternatives to diesel variants. Many manufacturers are now offering high efficiency models that combine the benefits of reduced running costs, hydraulic free operation and improved environmental credentials
  • once you have identified the particular type of machine that will best fit your needs and budgetary constraints, begin investigating which supplier is best equipped to support you. To help you make this decision, consider investigating after-sales service support and maintenance deal packages.  Speaking with a number of different providers can often help you negotiate the best deal. Brand loyalty can be advantageous, so long as it doesn’t impact on the overall value you are being offered as a client. Fundamentally, it is always advisable to work with a supplier that you feel you can trust and who will support you in your work. Down-time is expensive, so the speed at which your dealer responds to problems should be a major consideration in your purchasing decision
  • once you have identified the particular machinery items that you require and have determined which supplier you wish to take your business to, you can begin investigating your procurement options.  Besides outright purchase, there are also a variety of leasing options available, some which take depreciation into account. Working closely with the Greenkeeping and financial management teams at your facility will ensure you make the most appropriate decision for your specific requirements and situation. It is possible that hiring could be a more suitable option if purchase or leasing costs are prohibitive; this will obviously be dependent on how often the equipment will need to be used. Sharing rarely used machines with local facilities might be an option, but there will be a number of issues that must be agreed at the outset for such an agreement to work, e.g. availability, transportation between sites and responsibility for upkeep.

Once you have developed a fleet of maintenance machinery which is well equipped to meet the requirements of your particular facility, there are further steps you can take to ensure that you optimise the potential of these new resources:

Staff training and CPD 
The value of machinery to your business is hugely dependent on you having appropriately skilled operators to use the equipment for its intended purpose on the golf course. Whenever you add new machinery to your fleet, it is important to carry out skills assessments with your staff to ensure that all operators have sufficient knowledge to use the equipment effectively and safely. Your supplier will be able to advise you on appropriate training programmes as needed.

Servicing and Maintenance
With significant financial investment being made into new machinery resources, it is in the best interests of your business to keep this equipment in as close-to-new condition as possible into the future. Well maintained machinery not only operates more efficiently and safely but also commands a higher resale value when you come to upgrade. Your supplier will be able to advise on the recommended service intervals for all items within your fleet. Some facilities make the decision to employ a full time mechanic or service technician in order to keep all maintenance work in-house.

Record keeping
It is very useful to keep detailed records for each item of machinery in your fleet. This should include costs of:

  • purchase, leasing or hire
  • parts and repairs
  • fuel
  • disposal of used lubricants
  • annual depreciations.

As a central component of your day-to-day course operations, machinery management will be a critical factor in determining your long term business success and financial security.