Jacobsen executive goes ‘undercover’ on turf maintenance crew

In an effort to get some unfiltered feedback from the field, Jacobsen’s Vice President of Sales Ric Stone recently worked undercover as an equipment operator for a week at Kiva Dunes, one of American’s top resort courses.

Inspired by CBS’ hit television show “Undercover Boss,” Stone’s idea was to work alongside a real maintenance crew for an entire week without them knowing his true identity. He believed his anonymity would give him a uniquely authentic experience and provide honest user feedback on Jacobsen equipment.

Kiva Dunes uses a fleet of Jacobsen turf equipment, including ECLIPSE walking greens mowers and ECLIPSE 322 riding greens mowers. The stunning course, sprawling across the narrow peninsula of Gulf Shores, Alabama, has been named the state’s top course and is ranked as one of Golf Digest’s Top 60 Resort Courses.

Kiva Dunes Superintendent Mike Rienzi played along perfectly with the ruse and introduced Ric as a new member of the maintenance crew on the first day. “Nobody suspected anything,” said Rienzi. “But they probably wondered why I was working him so hard. He held up pretty well, except for the blisters.”

Ric’s gnarled hands were the result of some very hard work: he was tasked with bunker raking, hole cutting, floor sweeping, greens and fairway mowing, machine maintenance and a handful of other odd jobs around the shop.

At the end of the week over a pizza lunch, Rienzi revealed the true identity of the new rookie. After a moment of stunned silence, the room filled with gasps, laughter and head shaking.

“What I learned from the operators was invaluable. They love using our machines, but there are little things we can do to make them even better,” said Stone. “I will take that feedback directly to our engineering department.

Above all else, I came away with a great respect for operators. They have a true passion for presenting world-class conditions for their customers. It was an awe-inspiring week that will be with me for a long, long time.”

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