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Why a Colorado golf course invests in battery power

By |  August 5, 2021 0 Comments

The crew at Mariana Butte prefers Smithco’s Sand Star E due, in part, to its fast transport speeds.(Photo courtesy of Smithco)

The crew at Mariana Butte prefers Smithco’s Sand Star E due, in part, to its fast transport speeds.(Photo courtesy of Smithco)

Mariana Butte Golf Course in Loveland, Colo., is a scenic beauty with lots of elevation changes. The course is on the front range, with spectacular mountain views providing the backdrop for nearly every hole. Jordan McCormick has been the superintendent there for 11 years.

The city-owned course has its typical challenges. That includes neighbors who, though friendly, complained about the noise generated by the golf course crew in the early morning hours. In fairness to the neighbors, the course was violating the local noise ordinance. With 40,000 rounds annually, McCormick had to find an alternative to gas-powered greens mowers to get the course ready for play each day.

Five years ago, McCormick started shopping for greens mowers. The process was easy, he laughs, because there weren’t many choices. He went with two brands of battery-powered greens mowers. One is powered by a lithium-ion battery, and the other is powered by the equivalent of a golf cart battery. His course was the first in the state to operate a lithium-ion-powered greens mower, and he has learned a lot via observation throughout the last five years.

“We’ve been able to ascertain some good information of the technologies that exist with the lithium-ion now and how far superior it is, that’s for sure,” McCormick says. “There were concerns with the (other mower) early on, just because you can’t do as much as you can with a lithium-ion unit. We can mow the entire golf course with (the lithium-ion) if we want to, whereas with the other mower, the most that we mowed with that is maybe 11 holes. Twelve would be pushing it.”

Mariana Butte recently acquired a permit to surpass the noise ordinance on designated times in the summer, but

McCormick’s more interested in going the battery-powered route, as opposed to taking advantage of the permit. The course has invested in a Smithco Sand Star E battery-powered bunker rake as well as rotary mowers and string trimmer from Kobalt.

The course uses the rotary mowers, purchased at Lowe’s, for smaller tee boxes where getting large equipment is difficult. The crew enjoys the battery-powered equipment now that they’ve gotten accustomed to it, McCormick says. The Smithco Sand Star E has become a favorite of the crew because of its transport speed.

“You can be a lot more efficient because you can get around the golf course a lot quicker,” he says. “It’s to the point that (the crew) prefers it because they can get around the course so quickly … I think there’s just a lot of positive reasons for (battery-powered equipment), whether it’s lessening your footprint or just the sheer weight of the equipment is less. I knew that we would have a limitation on how far the batteries would go, but we don’t have a lot of area to cover, and the weight of the machine is much less. Just dealing with them on trailers or putting them in a cart, or however it is you’re transporting them around, they’re just much easier to deal with.”

A lower noise output is one reason many courses opt for battery-powered handheld equipment. (Photo by: Golfdom Staff)

A lower noise output is one reason many courses opt for battery-powered handheld equipment. (Photo by: Golfdom Staff)

 

The right recipe

John Powers, director of product management for Echo, recently made a course visit to one of former President Donald Trump’s Florida courses, where he observed the crew using battery-powered string trimmers, blowers and chainsaws. The reduced noise level is what appealed to the course, he says.

Powers says there are multiple professional industries where he sees battery-powered handheld equipment gaining traction. Residential landscaping and commercial landscaping are the two big ones. He’s also seen some adoption in the tree care industry.

One of the challenges he sees is that customers want to make a wholesale switch from gas to battery, and that’s difficult to accomplish. The right recipe is a combination of battery and gas and playing to the strengths of each. He suggests a good starting point in battery-powered handheld is with hedge trimmers.

“It doesn’t require as much power as something like a blower or a string trimmer,” he says. “It’s kind of counterintuitive. You would think you would need a lot of power for a hedge trimmer, but you actually don’t. That’s the product out of all the main products that is probably the best fit for battery technology.”

Steven Johnson, regional sales manager for Smithco, says his challenge hasn’t been convincing superintendents of the machine’s efficiency or the power of the lithium-ion battery, but in getting the parts from vendors necessary to create the bunker rake. The Sand Star E has become so popular that the demand has outpaced the supply.

He says Smithco soon will be offering another option in the battery-powered realm: a 70-inch greens roller.

“It’s going to combine the electric components that we currently are using in our electric bunker rake and the sound and true hydraulic system that we’ve used in our rollers for the past 10, 15 years, and do a combo,” Johnson says. “They’re going to get the best of both worlds.”



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