COURSE CARE
Triplex Mowers Gain Market Share October 26, 2014 By Patrick O'Brien

Improved triplex mowers from leading manufacturers have played a major role in improving operational efficiency and producing excellent putting surfaces in the Southeast.

In 2014, fleets of triplex putting green mowers quietly advanced through the Southeast Region, displacing walk-behind mowers and their operators to mow turf with efficiency and precision. Why? Let’s discuss why triplex mowers are becoming more common and will provide you with resources for more information.

  1. Labor savings – The iron fist of the most recent recession demands budget reductions, conservation of resources and improved efficiency if golf facilities are going to remain profitable. Triplex mowing requires less labor, which is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to recruit, train and retain. For example, Pinehurst Course No. 8 uses two triplex mowers daily during the season instead of five walk-behind mowers. Using triplexes keeps the mowing staff 75 to 90 minutes ahead of the first group of golfers. For shotgun starts, or when golfers tee off from both the first and 10th tees, three triplex mowers are used versus eight to 10 walk-behind mowers. Thus, by using triplex mowers daily labor can be reduced or reallocated to other golf course tasks.
  2. Double mowing – Frequent double-mowing is a common maintenance practice on ultradwarf bermudagrass putting greens during the growing season. The use of triplex mowers to double-mow greens can place less demand on the labor force. For example, at Pinehurst Course No. 8, it used to take eight to 10 employees to double-mow greens using walk-behind mowers; but with triplex mowers double-mowing can be accomplished with only three triplex mowers and three staff members. More importantly, triplex mowers do not get tired when double-mowing occurs frequently during the summer. 
  3. No loss of putting quality – Over the past decade, equipment manufacturers have improved triplex-mower technology. Typically, the reels and bedknives used on modern triplex mowers are the same as the reels and bedknives used on walk-behind mowers. Furthermore, attachments like brushes and groomers are readily available for triplex mowers and can help simultaneously improve the quality of cut while mowing.
  4. More durable turf in summer – Ultradwarf bermudagrass varieties have greater tolerance of high heat and humidity than bentgrass. Nevertheless, many superintendents remain skeptical about using triplex mowers on small greens and/or on areas adjacent to bunkers, water hazards or other features where tight turns are necessary. At Pinehurst Course No. 8, architectural features limit turning areas for triplex machines, but no turf health issues have occurred as a result of using triplex mowers. Where needed, mowing patterns have been slightly altered at Pinehurst Course No. 8 to account for making turns with triplex mowers off the putting green. In other instances where turning area is limited, three-point turns are made on the green. Equipment operators can easily learn new mowing patterns with proper training and, as long as extra care is taken, the end result usually meets or exceeds expectations. Additionally, using triplex mowers can eliminate the use of turning boards commonly used with walk-behind mowers to make turns in tight locations, which can ultimately save time.
  5. Golfers enjoy good greens – The adoption of triplex mowing does not predispose a course to diminished putting-surface quality. The decision to adopt triplex mowing shouldn’t be made unless turf quality can remain similar or is improved under the new regimen. Where the change to triplex mowers has occurred, we are not aware of any golfer dissatisfaction. Golfers know good greens and they rarely are concerned with the equipment used to create them.

For more information on this emerging trend, please see Return of the Triplex Mower. Contact Patrick O’Brien or Chris Hartwiger to discuss how this information may apply to your golf facility.

Source: Patrick O’Brien (patobrien@usga.org) and Chris Hartwiger (chartwiger@usga.org)

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