Keep sharp, keep grinding

Features - Equipment

Turf equipment pros offer tips to keep your equipment operating at its best this summer.

July 2, 2019

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The golf season is at its height in most of North America, meaning crews are busy with ongoing mowing responsibilities. So, what can courses do to ensure their equipment is operating at peak efficiency?

Tony Bevolo is the equipment manager at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas. Bevolo, who has worked in the industry since age 16, stresses the importance of checking mowers on a daily basis. “Bring that machine into the shop and have a skilled technic- ian, or even a superintendent who is very versed in the equipment go through the cutting units daily and adjust the height of cut and the quality of cut or reel to bed knife,” he says.

“I think that plays a real big role because if you let that machine go out and mow a week, a week-and-a-half, two weeks without checking it, you’re developing a big gap between the reel and the bed knife. That tends to dull out a little quicker. It will for sure allow more plant material to get in between the reel and the bed knife and encourage a little bit of ripping or tearing of the turf. That’s when you kind of see ill effects on the quality of cut.”

Bevolo is working with zoysiagrass at Trinity Forest. For that reason, he has all his cutting units on a regular schedule and pays especially close attention to his equipment. “(Zoysia) has a thick, dense, leaf blade that tends to wear out the blade a little faster,” he says.

Nick Testa, a faculty member at SUNY Cobleskill in the Agricultural Engineering Technology Department, is a frequent presenter at industry events and serves as a consultant to numerous golf facilities. He notes that one of his clients provides its staff with individualized checklists for each of its machines. “Before the equipment goes out, they have an inspection check sheet,” Testa says. “Every worker that goes out, whether it’s to do a fairway or greens or tee box or whatever, they have a check list unique to that machine.”

Testa says checking bearings and tolerances should be part of any daily inspection. “Keeping tolerances 1/ to 2/1000th between the bed knife and the reels, no more than 3/1000th for bentgrass, that’s what my rule of thumb has always been,” he says. Make sure the reel stays in its true cylinder shape, no cone shapes, and that all comes from adjustment and all that. In terms of sharpening, certainly you’re going to do spin grinding to get rid of all your gouges and all that and then you’re going to put your relief grind in it.”

Jim McCool is the reel technician at Bellerive Country Club just west of St. Louis. He is constantly monitoring the condition of his equipment. “We don’t actually grind on a regular schedule,” he says. “What we do is we constantly monitor whenever a piece of equipment goes out and comes back in. We check its cutting condition, monitoring everything really, really closely.

“With the greens mowers, every time they come in, I take a file and just touch up the front edge of the bed knife. Just a few swipes. It seems to really help keep things sharp between grindings.”

An industry veteran of three dec-ades, Bellerive equipment manager Chris Rapp is responsible for zoysiagrass fairways and bentgrass greens. Each requires a different strategy.

“The seedheads are actually the worst part about zoysia,” he says. “You can have freshly ground units and it won’t cut those things. Bentgrass, at least the variety we have here, changes personality throughout the season. We try to adjust the setup of the cutting units to (deal with) that.”

Rapp also had to alter his approach in deference to the wet weather he’s encountered this season. “We’ll switch to smooth rollers in the summertime,” he says. “This year, we never did put grooved rollers on them. A grooved roller makes for a little more aggressive cut because it allows the cutting unit to settle down into the turf a little further.

“We haven’t had a lot of good growing days for either the cool- or the warm-season turf, so we’ve had to be pretty gentle on everything and not go over-aggressive on any of the setups.”

Testa notes that not every facility can grind its equipment as often as it would like, but there are ways to maintain the equipment and stick to a budget at the same time.

“One club (where I’m a consultant) will actually pull the reels apart and sharpen three times a year,” he says. “Locally, we have a more of a (lower-budget) course and they sharpen once a year and back blade half a dozen times during a season.”