Greens mowers: Q&A with Jeff Drake of The Toro Co.

The company’s global product marketing manager talks greens mower trends, operating tips and new features.


Toro greens mowers
Greens mowers are having an ever-increasing influence on golf course aesthetics, sustainability and labor inputs. Photos courtesy of The Toro Co.

Editor’s note: The following article was supplied by The Toro Co. All product claims, research cited and other information is directly from the company.

Q: What trends, in general, are you seeing with regard to greens mowers? This could be insight into design/manufacture/technology trends, sales trends, end user trends, the market overall, or a mix of these or other areas.

Jeff Drake, global product marketing manager for Toro: Golf greens are the showplace of golf courses — they’re what players most remember about a course. There’s an ongoing demand for our customers to deliver not only pristine greens, but also consistency from green to green across the course. With current labor challenges, delivering on these expectations is becoming more and more difficult for course managers, so providing equipment that is more productive, easier to use and simple to service is more important now than ever.

Q: What role does sustainability — including fuel options, emissions and noise — play in mower selection?

A: Our customers face ever-changing and tightening regulations. Designing and manufacturing products that not only meet those regulations but also deliver the productivity, performance and durability our customers expect becomes more challenging every day.

As equipment manufacturers, we’re being challenged to help superintendents maintain their golf courses with the environment in mind. While every property is different, they all share a common goal of reducing carbon footprints and noise emissions. As managers of a large green space, golf course superintendents are constantly looking for ways to be good stewards of the environment, and the choice of equipment to maintain their property is playing an ever-increasing role in that process.

Q: What are your top 3 best practices for using the right greens mower for the job?

A: Far and away, the first thing is proper machine setup for the conditions. Anyone who’s been in the business knows you can have the best machine available, but without the proper setup for the conditions, there are no guarantees for performance.

Second, mower maintenance. You have to ensure the cutting edges are sharp so you can deliver a crisp cut, not only on the bench, but also in the grass — cut after cut, day after day.

Third, reducing negative operator influence. If an operator is applying too much force on a walker handle or being too aggressive with their off-green turns while riding a greens mower, that could lead to visible damage in the turf that takes away from a golfer’s experience.

Q: What’s one essential thing a golf course manager needs to keep in mind to maximize the performance and playability of the golf course?

A: When it comes down to maximizing performance and playability for golfers, course managers take hundreds of factors into consideration. But in the end, it’s about delivering on the golfer’s expectations for your specific facility to ensure a positive, lasting impression.

The expectations for a once-in-a-lifetime “bucket list” round, a weekend round with friends or nine holes on a par-3 course with the kids are all very different. While there’s a core list of common expectations across all golf courses, as expectations go up, so do the inputs that course managers have to deliver to meet those expectations. It comes down to making the most of what you have to help make the course stand out for the golfer.

Q: Can you share some insights on your latest greens mowers and/or any new products or mower upgrades?

A: Over the past two years, The Toro Co. has released a full line of walk-behind greens mowers as well as two exciting Greensmaster eTriFlex riding greens mower models.

The new Greensmaster line of fixed- and flex-head units are designed around the operator experience. An isolated telescoping handle can be adjusted to fit nearly any operator height while isolating them from the cutting unit to prevent a negative influence of the cut. By integrating the safety bail with the traction and reel engagement bail, the operator is in complete control of the mower speed not only while mowing, but also while executing turns and while in transport. The reel speed is always matched to the ground speed through a gear-driven transmission, ensuring the optimal clip rate, regardless of the operator’s mowing speed.

Toro eTriFlex greens mower
The Toro Greensmaster eTriFlex 3360.

Eliminating golf course superintendents’ number one fear — a hydraulic leak — was one of the driving forces behind the development of the eTriFlex 3360 and 3370 mowers. All functions typically performed by hydraulic power have been replaced by electrical components. This includes the reel drive, traction drive, lift and steering. By replacing the typical hydraulic components with electric components, operators gain the ability to control the mower better and provide added functionality with an enhanced level of precision.

A key example of this precision can be seen in the Radius Dependent Speed (RDS) system. The machine independently controls the individual reel speeds while following a curve, ensuring each reel is maintaining the optimal clip rate for the path it’s following. Similarly, the machine independently controls the individual wheel speeds to match the specific path the tires follow to eliminate any scrubbing of the tires due to the differential drag commonly found in a hydraulic or mechanical system. The combination of the RDS system and the patented lift-in-turn cutting unit suspension virtually eliminates the unsightly “triplex ring” often seen on the perimeter of golf greens.

The 3360 is powered by a constant-speed Kawasaki engine, reducing noise over a conventional gas- or diesel-powered greens mower. The 3370 reduces noise levels even further and is powered by a lithium-ion battery pack, providing ample power and run time to mow all the greens on a typical golf course without the need for a recharge.

Q: Can you tell us about what features are engineered into the new Greensmaster e1021 in regard to sustainability, performance and user-friendliness?

A: In addition to the Honda-powered Greensmaster 1021 and Flex 1021, Toro has released a lithium-ion-powered version of both mowers. The operating range of each battery-powered machine is up to 35,000 square feet of mowing before needing a recharge. Back-lapping can be performed onboard using the integrated LCD screen to speed cutting unit maintenance functions. The extremely quiet operation allows superintendents to start earlier while not disturbing nearby homeowners, residents or resort guests. The elimination of the engine exhaust emissions is not only easy on the environment, but the lithium-ion operation is also easy on the operating budget. The benefits previously described around the new mowers apply to all new walk greens mowers in the product line, making operator training a breeze. Train them on one set of controls and they can move from mower to mower, performing different tasks around the golf course.

Q: Anything else you want to add about greens mowers?

A: To safely, securely and efficiently move the new walk greens mowers around a golf course, Toro has also recently released the TransPro 200 trailer for transporting one or two walk greens mowers. Through a combination of adjustable roller pockets, rubber mats and integrated transport wheel and donut wheel retainers, the mowers are secured in place once the rails or ramps are raised, ensuring all precise cutting unit settings stay intact while moving around the course.

With the addition of the products mentioned, Toro has a complete line of walk and riding Greensmaster products to meet the needs of customers around the world.

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