Case Study Carried out By Bevan Houghton at Akarana Golf club Inc
Bevan Houghton is the course superintendent at Akarana Golf Club and comes from a strong golfing background; his father Ray was the professional at the Pakuranga Country Club for many years. He completed his turf management apprenticeship at Maungakiekie Golf Club then took up the assistant superintendent position at Peninsula Golf Club to the north of Auckland.
He followed this as the ‘grow-in’ superintendent for the new holes at Remuera Golf Club before heading to KeriKeri Golf Club for his first superintendents role. Following 18 months at Kerikeri he achieved his life-long goal, being appointed course superintendent in Auckland city at Akarana.
In this short case study he looks at the selection process for the purchase of a new riding tees and surrounds mower.
Eighteen months ago we were looking to replace our Jacobsen Greens King VI tees and surrounds mower and definitely needed a machine that could handle undulating terrain in wet conditions. We approached the ‘big three’ machinery companies and narrowed our choice down to the two-wheel drive Jacobsen Eclipse 322 diesel-electric hybrid and a standard hydraulically-driven competitor’s riding triplex with three-wheel drive.
We spent several weeks trialling both machines and the decision was made using three criteria:
1.) Can the machines handle the terrain we have and more importantly how will they perform over the wet winter?
2.) What would be the annual and lifetime operating costs?
3.) Do we want to embrace new technology and become a more sustainable golf course?
The first possible issue with the Eclipse 322 was that it was only available in two-wheel drive at that time we were considering it. If the traction wasn’t up to it, then it would be out of the equation.
Surprisingly, the two-wheel drive Eclipse did not fail this test. Jacobsen’s dealer, Power Turf, demonstrated that with the Eclipse braking system we had better control downhill and we could control the wheel spin in wet uphill conditions using the machine’s sophisticated electronic controls. It was possible to slow down the mow speed, without affecting the frequency of cut (FOC), until the wheel torque was reduced to the point that the front drive wheels didn’t lose traction and spin.
In terms of operating costs we could cut our fuel consumption bill by a third and our mechanical maintenance time in half with this machine. I would estimate that the total saving is in the vicinity of NZ $2,000-3,000 in 18 months.
As a business, we decided that we wanted to embrace the new technology and take advantage of the diesel-electric technology of the Eclipse 322. All the systems on the machine are powered by electricity – literally; all the small diesel engine does is power a continuous generator and this runs the electrical systems – steering, reel lift/lower, cutting reels and traction drive.
Once you’re using electricity as the primary power source, you can use electronics to do some clever things. Take the FOC feature as an example; you can control the number of cuts per metre and maintain it, whatever forward speed you are doing. You can also lock it in, using a PIN code, so that whichever operator is on the machine, it will always cut at that exact frequency. That means consistency across all green; no other machine on the market can do that!
So, you can see that the Eclipse ticked all the boxes for the direction that Akarana was heading in. We purchased our Eclipse in December 2010, the first diesel-electric hybrid mower in New Zealand, and it proved it could handle the terrain in wet weather. Add to this the new technology such as the FOC facility, the braking system, no hydraulics, less noise, reduced maintenance, the list does go on. These were the reasons we brought it, and it outperformed all other mowers we trialled.
Well, the FOC facility has to be the best thing about this machine; the braking system for health and safety reasons is perfect especially when you have steep terrain; operator comfort, ease of maintenance, and above all, operating cost reductions because of its unique design.
To be honest not much; if I had to be picky having to waterproof lube the electrical connections that connect to the reel motor on a monthly basis, but that would be all.
Finally, a word of praise for Terry Sullivan at Power Turf NZ Ltd, who has been supplying Jacobson machinery to Akarana Golf Club for around 15 years. We have a fantastic relationship with Terry and his team and their technical support and service has been outstanding over that time.
Bevan Houghton’s assistant superintendent, mowing with the Jacobsen Eclipse 322 at Akarana Golf Club