The new John Deere 7500 PrecisionCut fairway mowers at work.
Western Gailes course manager Jim Devlin with greenkeepers Ian Templeton and Ross Hodge.
With views across the Firth of Clyde to the Isle of Arran, Ailsa Craig and beyond, Western Gailes Golf Club in Ayrshire is regarded by many as the hidden gem of Scottish seaside links courses.
It has frequently been used for final qualifying rounds for The Open Championships played at Royal Troon and Turnberry, and has hosted the Curtis Cup and eight Scottish Amateur Championships. Jim Devlin has been course manager here for 14 years, and over that time has built up the course maintenance fleet to the stage where he and his team of seven greenkeepers now have the right mix of machinery to look after the course the way they and club like it.
“We look at what’s available for the jobs we’re doing, and try out the different makes,” he says. “Our first priority is to get a good deal for the club. All of the greenkeeping staff operate all the machines, including me, so everyone is consulted on the best options and we produce reports on each machine that’s demonstrated.”
The club has been a customer of John Deere dealer Nairn Brown Ltd at Busby in Glasgow since 2007, when the first machine bought was an Aercore 1500 tractor-mounted aerator. The newest to arrive are two 7500 PrecisionCut fairway mowers, equipped with quick-adjust QA5 5in cutting heads with rear roller brushes and 11-blade reels. These are used to produce a fine cut on the fairways and roughly 4ac of grass nurseries, plus the practice areas.
“This was our first time trying out John Deere mowers,” says Jim. “The lads thought the 7500 was the best machine for the job of the four we tried on demonstration, and said it ticked all the boxes for them. It’s easy to use and service, and the new QA cutting units are a lot lighter for getting on and off the mower for maintenance and sharpening, for example.”
Both the mowers are fitted with Mauser cabs, for which Nairn Brown is the official UK importer. “The cabs are definitely needed, and make working in the prevailing weather conditions here much more comfortable,” Jim adds. “It’s quieter in the cab as well, so you can hear the radio now! The ball joint design on the cutting heads is good too, they really follow the ground contours very closely on our undulating links.”
Two-thirds of Western Gailes is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, so Jim Devlin and his team only use organic fertilisers and very little pesticide. “With so much of the course being an SSSI, obviously we’re very limited in what we can do,” he says.
“Everything is managed as naturally as possible, and we have maintained pretty much the same approach over the years, as the club likes the course to remain just the way it is. The machinery we use has to do the jobs we want as efficiently as possible so we can look after the course the way we want to, and the new John Deere mowers certainly help us do that.”