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“Toro The Future” At Mid Kent GC

“Toro The Future” At Mid Kent GC: Darryl Manion, the newly appointed course manager at Mid Kent Golf Club, has committed to increasing the club’s Toro fleet with a renewal agreement and four new machinery purchases in his first three months at the club in Gravesend. 

Darryl arrived at Mid Kent Golf in 2000 and has worked his way up the club through senior and deputy roles before taking on the course manager position. He is dedicated to renewing the current Toro fleet and expanding it further.

"Toro The Future" At Mid Kent GC

He explains: “I’m not interested in changing a system that works. I want to make the club better, not take a step backwards. The service we get from Toro is second to none and to be honest I can’t think of anything better to suit the course’s needs. Our team works hard to keep standards high, but it would be useless if we didn’t have the right equipment behind us, which is why I want to continue with Toro.”

With Toro already front and centre at the club, Darryl explains why expanding is the right choice for Mid Kent: “The design of Toro machinery has always impressed me, they get the job done quickly which saves fuel and their durability in particular is better than any other brand I’ve used. The quality is undeniable really. I’ve only been in this role three months, but I’m already looking to the future and to what we can achieve. By renewing machines each year and updating the fleet, I know the quality of the course will only improve. The way I see it, Toro is the future for Mid Kent Golf Club.”

Mid Kent Golf Club, which is over a century old, is regularly referred to as a course of classic design and has long enjoyed glowing praise for the fact that the challenge and aesthetic layout of the course Willie Park Jr took great care in creating has never been diluted. This is a situation Darryl is keen to maintain.

“I’ve had experience with Toro for many years and there’s nothing else that meets the same standard. I’m lucky enough to be in a position to make investments to maintain the club’s charm and make improvements that mean we stay with the times – I want to take that opportunity and ensure the future of Mid Kent is the best it can be and going forward, that means Toro.”

The club currently boasts a comprehensive collection of Toro machines and utility vehicles plus two TYM tractors so there’s no question the club has long recognised the value they bring. With a Workman MDX-D and Groundsmaster 4700-D purchased this year, and a Reelmaster 3100-D and Greensmaster Triflex Hybrid 3420 on order, the fleet is expanding and with Darryl in charge there have been no delays in making that happen.

“The new machines are going to be a great addition to the fleet we have already,” says Darryl. “Each machine we get from Toro always works perfectly for the job it’s intended for, which is what makes them different to other brands. I think my favourite machine is the Reelmaster 3100-D Sidewinder, because I know it’s going to be a job well done before I even start. It gives good definition around the greens which is really important and, of course, very satisfying.”

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Tips From Keith Kent

Tips From Keith Kent: Grassroots rugby pitches across the country struggling to cope with the heavy rain that marked the start of 2018 and clubs risk losing crucial income. Keith Kent of NatWest RugbyForce has offered five useful tips.

The Rugby Football Union’s head groundsman Keith Kent has been in charge of tending to Twickenham Stadium’s hallowed turf since September 2002, having previously been head groundsman at Manchester United’s Old Trafford.

Tips From Keith Kent

As part of NatWest RugbyForce’s commitment to assisting grassroots rugby clubs across the country he has visited 108 grounds in the past two years: 48 in 2016, and 60 in 2017.

Clubs signing up to NatWest RugbyForce can apply for a Pitch Maintenance Kick Start grant of £5,000, plus support and advice from Kent and other experts on how to best invest that sum.

On top of that, Kent will travel to more clubs this year with RugbyForce because he is passionate about advising volunteer groundsmen how to improve the condition of their pitches, as he recognises the importance of the rugby club to the local community. Unplayable pitches mean clubs lose income and the community loses a focal point.

“For every visit I will walk all the pitches with the volunteer groundsman and carry a spade with me,” he says. “It might take one hour or three; it depends how many pitches there are.

“I use the spade to dig a hole in each pitch, and look at the root zones, see if there is any compaction, what type of soil it is, and whether it has got a good crumb structure or whether it is terrible clay.

“After completing my assessment I will sit down with the members of the club and provide them with a detailed, bespoke programme outlining what I would like them to do in the coming close season and throughout the season.

“I never criticise them, because those volunteers are the oil that turn the cogs of rugby in Britain. It’s hard work, but it is very rewarding.”

Keith Kent’s top five tips:

1 Aeration is the crucial factor

This is my No1 tip. If you don’t spike your pitch, the rainwater will not be able to drain, and the top surface will become very compacted. I advise groundsmen to aerate their pitches as often as possible. You can either hard-fork areas that have pooled water, as that is a simple and effective way to aerate.

At the other end of the scale you can use a Verti-Drain, which costs between £350 and £600 but will put thousands of holes in your pitch. Just imagine how quickly the water will drain.

2 Sanding: it’s pricey but RugbyForce can help

Following aeration the most important remedial work is proper sanding. I recommend spreading a minimum of 60 tonnes per pitch, and a maximum of 100 tonnes. Brush that sand into all those holes you have spiked, and think about how thousands of little arrow-shaped holes filled with sand will better drain.

It’s so simple but it works wonders. Sand is expensive, though – it can be £35 per tonne – but NatWest RugbyForce has a history of being very generous and helping out on this front.

3 Rye grass seed is best

Rye grass seed is the best we grow in this country to use on rugby pitches, because it is the hardest wearing. It bounces back and its recovery is amazing. Ideally you don’t want the grass to get any higher than 50mm, or about two inches.

4 Fertilise in autumn

Don’t forget to fertilise the grass seed. Grow it properly – don’t just seed it and feed it in the summer. Putting an autumn feed on, allied with an aeration, will really improve your pitch going into the dark winter months. That’s the key: it is prevention rather than cure.

5 Use the right tractor

I appreciate that a majority of clubs have volunteer groundsmen who might not tend to their pitches until the Friday before a game, so day-to-day maintenance is difficult. When I visit I look in their shed to see what implements they use. And I also quiz them on their tractor, if they have one.

Most of the clubs, especially those in the countryside, tend to have rather large tractors with agricultural tyres. This is not good practice as the cleats can cause a lot of damage and they tend to stay in the shed for the majority of the year during wet weather. Most of the time they will only use it once a year, in June, when the ground is dry enough.

The RFU has a number of suppliers who can help, such as Ransomes Jacobsen. The Sisis Quadraplay has four pieces of kit on it: a rake, a slitter, a brush and a roller. For just over £4,000 it has everything you need. If your club has a shiny new tractor with a Quadraplay on the back then it is amazing how many more volunteers you will generate.

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