We all know where we are, but very few people realize where we have been. Ken asked me to expound on what it was like, equipment-wise, in the turf Industry when I first got into the industry. I started to work on a golf course in 1969. There were nine men on our staff, the superintendent worked and was our mechanic, we had a foreman and no one had turf education background.
We walked and cut greens six each, we took trailers that had everything in it, and we would rake our bunkers as we cut. We had two older men, one cutting fairways one with a nine blade seven gang fairway unit, and don’t even think about backing these up. The other gentleman would pull a five gang blitzer unit that had no back roller, just a pin that when you lifted it to set the height it felt like it weighed 180 pounds. We had 22-inch push rotary mowers, Jac 321s, that were easy to push because they had ball bearing wheels, not bushings. Our superintendent, Larry Clauson, welded brackets on them so you carried a five-gallon gas can and your lunch with you. We would leave the shop … three other kids and me … and Larry, with the stern voice, would say, “I want every tree done today gentleman, three rings no less and cut anything the gang can’t get!” We used to give the rough cutter our desert in our lunch every day. It’s amazing how little we had to cut. We edged bunkers with half moon edgers and you always had a course file in your back pocket to keep it sharp.
Weed eaters were just coming out, and they weighed so much and were precarious because of the harness you needed to wear. We all opted for hand scythes. They worked great as long as you kept them sharp, you traded your course file for a fine file, and the old timers used a sharpening stone. We made our own topdressing. We had a Royer shredder and a Royer power screen. If dirt dust kills you, I should be dead from this for sure. We had aerators that you lifted by hand and I was a skinny kid back then, so I ran the West Point power broom that was a sadistic piece of equipment.
Toro had just started offering a mower to rival the Locke. Larry told us, “You two kids master these or you will be mowing rings around trees until you graduate from college.” These things were mammoth. They had two sets of dually tires in the front that had huge heavy chain-drive mowers and a sulky trailer seat with foot pegs. In order to turn them, you would push with your left foot and pull with your right arm. They cut beautifully and it ended a lot of our rotary-pushing days. Soon to follow were triplex greens mowers, riding sand trap rakes, five-plexes, hydraulic lift aerators, great utility vehicles, high tip speed zero turn rotaries, large area topdressors, great aerators, and verticutters. Hydrostatic drive equipment was an enormous advancement as was small hydraulic drive pumps.
Perhaps, if I am allowed to expound on the future, I will write another article.
Enjoy technology. We are truly spoiled with great equipment and new advances.
Matt Shaffer is the Golf Course Superintendent at the Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, PA