The Sports Amenities Landscaping Exhibition (SALTEX) once again proved to be the industry’s showcase event, with over 500 brands on display and a record-breaking 9,104 visitors swarming into the NEC halls in Birmingham to see the latest innovations in grounds management.
The record-breaking attendance consisted of those working in or involved with groundscare, sports turf, amenities, estates and green-space management. The show not only attracted visitors from the UK, but also those from 49 overseas markets, including Europe, Asia, America and Africa.
One such international visitor was Ebi Ezekiel Egbe, managing director of Monimichelle Sports Construction, who travelled to SALTEX from Nigeria. Ebi explained why the long journey was worthwhile: “The most important thing for us in Africa is to broaden our knowledge on how to maintain the highest standard of sports pitches and to bring the latest innovations in groundscare to the African market. SALTEX gives us the opportunity to do exactly this. It’s a beautiful show and I’ve had a great time.”
SALTEX is also the perfect platform to inspire the next generation of groundscare practitioners and it was encouraging to see a younger demographic of visitors on the show floor, such as 13-year-old Jack Davies who enjoys gardening and mowing lawns in his spare time and aspires to be a professional landscaper. “I’ve been wanting to come to SALTEX for the past two or three years and this year I have finally managed to convince my Dad to take me. This is like Christmas for me,” he said.
The SALTEX College Cup competition, sponsored by Toro and Reesink, demonstrated just how well young groundscare students are being academically prepared for careers in the industry. The Myerscough College team saw off competition from four other colleges to win this year’s trophy and can now look forward to a visit to Real Madrid’s Bernabéu Stadium, where the winning students will get the opportunity to learn from Paul Burgess, director of grounds and environment for the Spanish footballing giants.
The competition was just a number of show attractions in the new Eco Village indoor demonstration area, which featured a programme of daily product demonstrations, including cutting-edge sustainable technology by Fleet Line Markers, STIHL UK, Overton UK, Avant Tecno, Cub Cadet, Linddana, Husqvarna, Allett Mowers and Sherriff Amenity in front of a large crowd of show attendees.
The buzz on the show floor was palpable, as recognised by the legendary Keith Kent, former head groundsman at Twickenham Stadium. “The Institute of Groundsmanship has done tremendously well in bringing so many exhibitors and visitors in and it is just a joy to see such a busy show. You cannot walk anywhere without seeing something that catches your attention,” he said.
Indeed, there was something for everyone on the show floor and this year’s SALTEX Innovation Award certainly caught the eye. From robotics to hybrid mowers, ground printers to state-of-the-art irrigation, grow lights to line trimmers – visitors had the opportunity to see the record-breaking 34 entries on the show floor. With the entries submitted and rigorously evaluated by an independent panel of judges, it was decided that there were three stand-out innovations – the Forza 360° football goal wheels from Net World Sports, the BU50 grow lighting system from SGL and the INFINICUT SM34 rotary mower from MTD Specialty Turf Products, with the latter picking up the top prize.
An increasing number of manufacturers on the show floor were also showcasing eco-friendly products. As well as those demonstrating in the Eco Village, exhibitors such as Pellenc, John Deere, Ego, Ryetec, Demon International, AMS Robotics, McConnel and Dennis Mowers all used SALTEX to launch new robotic and battery-powered products.
“These innovations have low vibrations, are environmentally friendly and great for health and safety – all things that help people on the ground like me. It’s great to see so many of these machines in one place,” says John Ryan, founder of the Lawn Care Legends online networking community.
Reflecting this trend, the IOG incorporated dedicated seminars, which further explored these topics into the expanded Learning LIVE free-to-attend education programme. Chemical-free sports pitch management, and environmentally-friendly turf maintenance were just some of the 57 free-to-attend CPD accredited seminars.
Many visitors also benefitted from free one-to-one turf management advice in the Ask the Expert feature; received career advice in the Job Clinic and had their soil samples assessed in Pathology and Soil Science LIVE- as well as specific technical advice gained from industry experts on the exhibition floor.
All eyes now turn towards SALTEX 2020 the exhibition’s 75th anniversary and CEO Geoff Webb is already looking forward to the celebratory event. He said: “SALTEX has moved from a horse racing track in Windsor to the National Exhibition Centre in the middle of the country and the fact that we are now gearing up for our 75th annual show next year is testament to the community of the sports turf industry and how it has grown.”
SALTEX 2020 takes place at the NEC, Birmingham on November 4-5. For more information, visit www.iogsaltex.com
With just under three years before the Ryder Cup returns to Europe at the Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome, one man who was an organisational mainstay of the 2018 event talks exclusively to Ross Biddiscombe about what needs to happen to make the competition’s Italian adventure a similar success
Paul Armitage was in his job as general manager of Le Golf National near Paris four years before the first Ryder Cup tee shot was struck last September. Now, just over one year since the victorious European team left the site, the English-born, French-speaking GM has been offering advice to the men who will operate the next match in Rome in three years’ time.
Armitage’s most topical piece of advice is to beware the aftermath. “The first six months after the Ryder Cup was depressing for the whole staff at Le Golf National, including myself and especially the green staff who had come off years of hard preparation work, all in the background for what was the best presented golf course the RC has ever seen. Once the Ryder Cup leaves town, you have to get quickly back to business as usual.”
A year later and that transition to “back to normal” has happened with Le Golf National now preparing for the World Amateur Championships in 2022 and the Paris Olympic golf events two years later. But the post-Ryder Cup period has been difficult and included putting parts of the course back together. “Business has been good since the Ryder Cup with a definite rise in green fees, visitors from overseas and everything to do with golf like rentals and buggies,” says Armitage. “But we also struggled with areas where there was Ryder Cup build, like the driving range which fans experienced as the merchandise area. For 10 months, we’d said goodbye to people who’d used that area because that’s how long it had to be closed. We’ve lost those golfers and that income, at least in the short term and now we need to try and get it back.”
For the benefit of Italy’s first Ryder Cup, Armitage also suggests his counterparts in Rome would have an advantage if they had the same dual cultural understanding as he enjoyed. At the moment, the Marco Simone commercial manager Riccardo Tirotti is the closest that the organisation has to a true equivalent to Armitage who, although born and raised in Scunthorpe, England, enjoyed a number of years working in the golf business in France and was fluent in French.
“I was able to do perhaps more than what you’d expect from a GM, partly because I’m a dual national, but I also had a cultural understanding of how the British and the French both functioned, how those two worlds needed to meet.” He says it was the backstage of the job, the politics, which drained him the most, despite his twin-cultural advantage, not the front office and working with the staff. “The stakeholders need confidence in the GM of the course to say no and yes at the right time and to the right people. The GM is in that unique position to work for the greater good of everyone,” he says.
The Ryder Cup week will also slip by very, very quickly at Marco Simone in three years’ time and Armitage suggests that the leader at the Roman club should make his or her staff the focus of attention.
“You’re so busy during that week, so giving your full time and attention to everything and everybody is not possible. I spent lots of time checking on my staff, not in an officious way, but I wanted them to be aware of the importance of what they were doing. The best thing I did was being a support for them and they still thank me today. I didn’t go into hospitality tents very much or even go to the official after-match party with the players. I stayed in the sheds with my guys,” he says.
“The staff got plenty of thanks from various people and that’s politeness, but I was a cheerleader for them during the week of the tournament. Remember, they are all working to a common cause. You might have an executive doing the job of cleaning Tiger Woods’ golf shoes for an hour on a rota, but that’s fine because it’s about the love of our image at Le Golf National and their love of the job.”
On the Sunday night after Europe’s victory, Armitage says he stayed close to Le Golf National. “After Europe had won, my place was on the course with the staff and we all went into the main public restaurant which was set up as a nightclub. I went to that party – not the big, official one – and that was the best decision I made that week”
Post-Ryder Cup will also deliver another challenge in Italy, just like it has for Le Golf National – maintaining the strength of the Ryder Cup and the course brand images.
“The Ryder Cup brand image is so strong that we couldn’t have people coming here and comparing this Ryder Cup destination to all the others and not have the same level of customer service. We needed to make sure our promise to the golfer was upheld. We’d reached the level of Ryder Cup excellence and we had to maintain it, but that’s tougher when the event is in the past.”
Also, with the post-Ryder Cup period in mind, Armitage suggests a change of course logo. “We re-branded Le Golf National’s logo to include a cockerel after we did our homework and saw what Celtic Manor, Gleneagles and The Belfry had done; you have to move on and re-position yourself.”
There is also a line of merchandise selling well at LGN, especially clothing, with a logo showing just the image of the Ryder Cup itself. “We call it the trophy collection and these new re-brands have meant that our income from merchandise has stayed the same because, although the sales of the original Ryder Cup logo items has dropped, the new logo merchandise has done amazingly well. Share of the turnover cake has moved from 65% Ryder Cup gear is down to 35%, but we’ve picked up on LGN and the trophy products. Our own LGN logo sells nicely because it looks better and the trophy logo looks very classy.”
With standards maintained, Le Golf National will also benefit in an unexpected way because the Paris Olympic organisers are now preparing to ramp up their golf tournaments and open up the course to many more fans than previously anticipated.
“The Olympic organising committee here in Paris has changed its way of seeing the golf because of the Ryder Cup success,” says Armitage. “They knew Rio was successful and everyone expects the same, if not better, from Tokyo next year, but the committee was really only thinking of making sure the tournaments at Le Golf National worked properly and maybe selling 10,000 tickets per day. Since last September, they can see almost 70,000 people per day coming to watch the top 100 players in the world and they now have the model of a major championship.”
Armitage also hints that if Marco Simone follows the path of Le Golf National, then another Ryder Cup could come its way. He certainly believes there’s a strong chance of a second Paris Ryder Cup at his course. “There has to be good odds that Le Golf National will do it again. It needs two factors, firstly leadership and maybe Pascal Grizot will again be president of another French Ryder Cup committee in the future, but the second factor is already in place – Europe won and the players want it back here. That’s why the Americans are going back to Hazeltine.”
The grandees at Marco Simone should take note.
Pictured top from left: ready for The Opening Ceremony: Alejandro Reyes (superintendent), Paul Armitage (GM Le Golf National), Philippe Pilato (assistant GM) and Pascal Grizot (Chairman France Ryder Cup committee)
4.03pm 19th November 2019 – New Products – This story was updated on Tuesday, November 19th, 2019
Cobra Golf has announced the launch of the King Speedzone range of drivers, fairway woods, hybrids and irons, all of which will be available at retail in January.
The range is designed to offer performance gains through a uniquely precise attention to design details, with significant weight savings achieved through tiny adjustments to material thicknesses that have been measured ultrasonically, as well as the new use of new materials in certain parts of the club heads.
King Speedzone Driver (£369)
The driver is offered in two models, the King Speedzone and King Speedzone Extreme. Both feature the pairing of carbon fibre and titanium in the head, along with the latest expansion of the CNC milling process on the face that was introduced with last year’s King F9 Speedback drivers.
That unique approach, in which every curve and thickness of the face is milled through computer controls in an effort to eliminate a great deal of the hand finishing work found on most drivers, now expands beyond the face to new machined areas at the perimeter, the topline and leading edge.
A new streamlined titanium T-Bar Speed Chassis creates more discretionary weight while maintaining a strong structure designed to withstand high-speed impacts. A 360 carbon wrap crown makes up 50% of the body, providing ample support while saving 25g of weight that has been repositioned low and back and around the perimeter where it is needed most. In total, 69g of mass has been repositioned for more optimal launch and spin. Optimised aerodynamics and shaping, including a raised front and rear skirt, help maximise clubhead speed by reducing drag.
The King Speedzone driver (9, 10.5 degrees) offers a traditional shape with front-to-back adjustable 2g and 14g weights to fine tune launch and low spin, while the King Speedzone Xtreme driver (9, 10.5, 12) provides increased forgiveness on off-centre hits via an additional 17g fixed weight. The driver is also available in a shorter Tour length shaft (44.5 inches) with heavier sole weights.
King Speedzone Fairway Woods (£229)
Cobra is offering golfers the choice of three new fairway wood designs, all of which feature a split sole rail. The standard model (14.5, 18.5 and 22.5) features back weighting and a shallower face, while the Tour model (14 and 17.5)is designed in a more compact shape with a forward centre of gravity for lower spin and flight. There’s also a third model, Big Tour (13.5), which features a larger profile and low loft to play as a backup driver with low spin and high launch.
The front rails, silver in colour, have been hollowed out to create thinner walls that flex with impact, while still preventing the leading edge from digging. The result is more flex for ball speed and higher launch, as well as more clubhead speed through impact via a cleaner strike.
The King Speedzone fairway woods feature an eight-way adjustable hosel that adjusts loft by plus or minus 1.5 degrees, with three draw settings per head.
King Speedzone Hybrids (£189)
The King Speedzone hybrids are offered in 17,19, 21 and 24-degree loftsin variable and one-length shaft options. They feature a pair of rails on the sole that run from the leading edge to the back of the head, but unlike previously released railed hybrids, the front area was left hollow. Cobra said the advantage is the lower portion of the hitting area can flex more effectively at impact because there is less mass behind the leading edge, so the clubs can create more ball speed on shots struck low in the hitting area.
A 12g tungsten weight in the back of the head lowers the center of gravity and pulls it away from the face, which should encourage shots with higher launch and that come down more vertically to stop faster on the greens.
King Speedzone Irons (£699 st, £799 gr)
The King Speedzone irons deliver extra distance thanks to the first ever carbon fibre topline. Two strips of carbon fibre replace steel both on the topline and underneath the topline in the 4-7 irons, creating a new I-beam type of construction allowing for saved weight and structural soundness.
To enhance feel, the cavity boasts a back medallion that features thermoplastic polyurethane, elastomer and an aluminum-foam tape that absorbs excessive vibrations at impact to soften feel and make the sound more pleasing.The wide body Speedback shaping returns to lower the centre of gravity and increase forgiveness, while the ‘Pwrshell’ face features an updated E9 structure that helps create more energy return through a deeper undercut channel.
Consistency of spin and flight is optimised by the progressive grooves that go from V-shaped grooves in the 4-6-irons to U-shaped grooves in the 7-PW.
A One Length set option boasts fine-tuned lie angles and progressive shaft weighting to optimize launch and forgiveness in the long irons, and lower launch with more control in the scoring irons and wedges.
All the King Speedzone clubs feature Cobra Connect Powered by Arccos, a system of embedded sensors in the grips that link wirelessly via Bluetooth to a free smartphone app. Using the app, golfers can track their performance and learn precisely how far they hit each club.
Cranleigh Golf & Country Club has spent over £250,000 over the past two years on improving the facilities at the popular Surrey country club, which has been the catalyst for a big boost in membership numbers.
But there is more investment to come in 2020 and beyond, underlining a concerted effort to enhance the experience and keep the club thriving and vibrant.
Among the many changes, this year has seen upwards of £70,000 invested in new greenkeeping equipment to keep its 18-hole parkland golf course in pristine condition. The challenging course features picturesque views of the stunning Surrey Hills throughout and the new equipment has meant the course blends seamlessly with its surroundings and is kept in an excellent state all year round.
The machinery is already being put to good use with a winter project to renovate tees, bunkers and paths and will see the level of maintenance raised to an even higher standard at a course which already boasts an enviable reputation for the quality of its greens.
A similar figure was also spent on refurbishing the steam room, sauna and shower area to bring a fresh, modern look and feel, a new contemporary colour palette, and the latest equipment.
In addition, the club has refurbished its driving range to provide members with the very best practice facilities to improve their game. The range has six indoor bays and four outdoor bays and is available for members and visitors from dusk till dawn.
Cutting-edge technology has been installed in the spinning studio to bring the latest virtual cycling equipment to the club. The MyRide VX system is the most advanced on the market and brings a cinematic riding experience to the studio, giving the rider the opportunity to visit some of the most picturesque routes in the world, with on-screen instruction to guide and push them to a higher level of fitness.
Cranleigh’s general manager Nick Hughes said: “Our highest priority is making sure our thriving membership have everything they need to get the maximum enjoyment and benefit from the club. We want to give them the top facilities and an experience that they would struggle to find elsewhere. It’s important we listen to what they want and make the necessary changes to the club to make sure we’re giving it to them – keeping up with latest trends and ensuring they feel valued. Of course, there are costs involved, but we feel they are worth it as we aim to improve our overall experience and offering. Naturally, we also hope that having the very best facilities also attracts visitors and new members to the club.”
With a gym, exercise studios, spa and treatment facilities, three floodlit tennis courts, 18-hole golf course and a converted barn clubhouse all on site, the club boasts a wide variety of activities for guests of all ages to enjoy. And Hughes believes there is much more to the club’s overall appeal than the facilities. He said: “Our ethos is to provide a welcoming, friendly environment for everyone to enjoy. Leisure time is at a premium for so many people these days, so we want to ensure people make the most of it.”
3.00pm 15th November 2019 – Corporate – This story was updated on Friday, November 15th, 2019
HONMA Golf, the premium Japanese golf brand, has opened its first European golf shop in the French capital city of Paris to showcase its exclusive BERES clubs and other luxury products designed for discerning golfers wanting equipment of the highest quality.
The Paris shop is located within the well-established GOLF PLUS store at Boulevard Pereire in the trendy Porte Maillot district, and incorporates impressive displays of the latest club models, as well as top quality golf bags and accessories.
The brand played by Olympic champion and top 10 golfer Justin Rose plans to build on its growing profile in other leading destinations across Europe and is due to open similar shops in the fashionable commercial districts of other European cities in the coming months.
HONMA already operates 75 shops under its own branding across the world, including flagship stores in Tokyo and Shanghai. There are 30 HONMA stores in Japan alone and the brand has also just opened its first North American store in California in September.
“The choice of Paris as the first city in Europe to open a HONMA shop was easy, as the French capital is globally recognized as a centre for market-leading, high-end brands and premium products,” said Alejandro Sanchez, General Manager of HONMA Golf Europe. “Coupled with the opportunity to occupy this prime location with our retail partner GOLF PLUS, and the success of last year’s Ryder Cup contest at the nearby Le Golf National complex, Paris became a natural option for our first European outlet,” he added.
Commenting on the opening of the new shop, Patrick Schmidlin, President at GOLF PLUS said: “Having a HONMA shop within our popular store will prove a great attraction and it makes a big statement about our offering for high-end customers.”
Paris attracts more than 40 million visitors a year and is one of Europe’s most successful shopping destinations, with an estimated €13.5 billion Euros being spent there on an annual basis. Aside from the HONMA shop, GOLF PLUS operates 10 other stores in the Paris area as one of the leading golf retailers in France since 1982.
Next month, HONMA will be introducing a new BERES range of customized clubs offering gold and platinum finishes, along with hand-crafted shafts made by Master Craftsmen at the company’s factory in Sakata, Japan.
3.17pm 15th November 2019 – Courses – This story was updated on Friday, November 15th, 2019
“We have already started to see new customers since we installed Power Tee. Golfers and non-golfers have been hitting more balls daily. I wish I’d done it sooner!” After installing Power Tee at the driving range near Nottingham in mid-October of 2019, Ballers and Hackers is already seeing a huge impact in their golf club.
Power Tee recently sat down with the owner of Ballers and Hackers, PGA professional Rob Kerr, and asked what made him finally decide on Power Tee, and he answered, “I wanted to make my range more accessible to a wider audience and make it easier for people to hit golf balls. Obviously, I wanted to add value to the whole experience that I have here, and the Power Tees are so aesthetically pleasing that my range just looks so much better for having them. I wanted to introduce more families with younger kids, and this has worked straight away with parents coming back to me saying how much they and their kids love using the Power Tees!”
Rob added, “The instant feedback has been incredible, normally I only get feedback by way of complaints, but with Power Tee it’s all been positive, I’m amazed. The customers love the mats to hit from and the auto tee is so much fun to use.”
Rob took over Ballers and Hackers in 2010 and renamed the facility to its current name in 2017. Ballers and Hackers has 18 floodlit covered hitting bays, a 9-hole golf course, a 9-hole foot golf course, and a bar and restaurant. Since taking over, Rob has made sure his customers get the best of the best, which made installing Power Tee even more of a no-brainer.
“I was exceptionally nervous of putting my price up at first,” Rob mentions, “Having introduced other technology last year and met resistance across the board, I didn’t see how I could get an extra £1 per 100 balls just because I had installed Power Tee. Well, upon completion of the installation I put my prices up by £1 per 100 balls and have met zero resistance! Not one complaint, it’s been fantastic! I believe the golfers really see the value in improving the range.”
Besides bringing more money to the range now, Rob also mentions the biggest difference to the range has been the fact that they are now busy in the daytime. “We could be quiet during the day most days, but now every time I look at my range my Power Tees are firing out golf balls. Football matches, firework displays, bonfire nights used to kill us but not now. When Power Tee told me about the repeat purchase, I thought it was a sales gimmick, it really isn’t. I had a new customer visit me this week and he bought 100 balls, went on the range and then came back not once but twice more. We have never sold 300 balls to one customer in one visit before, truly amazing.”
Power Tee is thrilled to have added Ballers and Hackers to their distinguished partners list and Rob says he is thrilled with his Power Tee systems, and the fact that they have enabled him to open his range to a wider audience. Adaptive golfers are now able to use his range easier than ever before because it gives them independence and shows that Ballers and Hackers is really open to their whole community.
Rob says, “I pride myself on my integrity and the level of service I provide my customers with, I under promise and over deliver, I think I have found my perfect business relationship with Power Tee as they are exactly the same. No grandioso claims and then fail to live up to them, they told us what they can do, and they have delivered us with unrivalled service. Pre installation, during the installation itself and post installation follow up’s they have been the consummate professionals. They have made us feel that our business matters to them. This have never been a case of sell equipment then never see them again they have been hands on throughout. I have not worked with a company as good as them before! I wish to thank Power Tee for their professional conduct and for their great product.”
Power Tee www.powertee.com
Pictured top: Owner and PGA Professional at Ballers and Hackers, Rob Kerr, enjoying the new Power Tee system