Diamond in the rough

Ask anyone who has played at the Ballybofey & Stranorlar Golf Club (B&SGC) and they’ll tell you it’s one of the most relaxing and picturesque 18 hole courses in Ireland. Situated in the east of County Donegal, it boasts beautiful views of the Donegal Mountains and the valley of the Finn River – but for some enthusiasts, it also carries a little sting in its tail! Founded in 1957, it was created by course architect P.C.Carr who designed it to require the use of ‘every’ club in the bag – a sure challenge for visitors and a lot of fun for its enrolled members.


B&SGC is situated on 100 acres of tree-lined fairways on an undulating, parkland landscape of heavy clay and woodland which has been extensively drained and is playable year-round. All greens conform to USGA specification and the current membership is around 500.


Whilst B&SGC has produced many a notable player on the international scene from both the ladies and men’s sectors of the club, one of the most important aspects that also receives significant recognition, is that of the quality greens. B&SGC greens are considered amongst the best in the country. The club team of four green-keepers is led by Head Green-keeper Richard Thompson who has been at B&SGC since 2002.


Said Richard, “One of the defining benefits of the club’s management team is that they have a lot of foresight and allow us to choose the right equipment to get the right finish. They clearly understand that to produce the best quality playing surface, you have to choose the best machinery and that doesn’t mean it has to be the most expensive, it just has to be right for our course.”


Having a golf course based on a clay foundation does have its benefits, but in the winter months and when there are periods of high rainfall, it also has its limitations. “We invested recently in a new wide-area mower to maintain the rough and semi-rough sectors of the course,” added Richard. “Our old mower was unreliable, had seen the best of its days and couldn’t cope with the varying ground conditions. So we reviewed the marketplace and looked at the leading brands, trying out a couple on our own course. We decided on the Major Contoura which has a number of additional features that meet our requirements and as an added bonus, it was more competitively priced than other machines. It’s proven to be the right choice, we are very happy with it.”


The Major Contoura is a 3.6m wide machine designed around a unique pivoting frame and assembled as three independent, trailed mowing units, each with two rotors, fitted with two knives. Full-width rollers at the front of the cutting assemblies means that ground undulations are followed closely and the height of cut maintained throughout. Height of cut can be quickly adjusted from 10mm up to 110mm. It also has a ‘zero-turn’ capability and includes a ‘kerb-lift’ specification enabling the decks to be raised without disengaging the PTO drive. Constructed of a very high strength steel, the Contoura is strong, very durable and long-lasting.


“One big plus from the Contoura” commented Richard, “is that it doesn’t have a belt drive, which always seems to be the weakest part of a mower. Instead, it’s gear-driven and therefore handles even heavy grass with ease. We use a Kubota L5030 tractor which is only fifty horsepower and the Contoura is not hard to drive – it doesn’t leave trackings – even when the ground conditions are wet.”


B&SGC bought their Major Contoura through their local dealer, Laird Machinery who provide full after-sales service and back-up when needed. “One thing we get measured by, every day,” laughed Richard, “is the quality of finish of the playing surface. If it’s not right, we certainly hear about it. But I have to say that this new Major Contoura leaves a perfectly striped and even finish – far better than we were used to. I get a lot of pride in walking out and looking at the finish after it has been through the rough and I think this mower will be with us for a very long time. The design and construction of the Contoura is far advanced over anything else on the market and I see this as being an investment that will see us through the next ten to fifteen years at least.” he concluded.

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