Mechanical Aspects of Golf: Ready, set, mow!

The weather is still cool here in the Midwest but, winter has made the turn and is heading for spring. The grass is awakening from its winters rest and is beginning to grow.

Speaking of making the turn, I just finished watching the end of the Daytona 500 which is NASCARS’s season opener and their premiere race of season. The race team’s preparation and the pit crews performance are obviously the results of a lot of work and planning. The NASCAR teams spend all winter preparing and practicing. They have spare parts and spare cars prepared, along with back up plans for their back up plans. When these race teams roll out of their shops and head to Daytona Beach, Florida they are ready for their season! One very important item found in the race track pits is a larger than life tool chest called a The War Wagon. The War Wagon is filled with all sorts of different tools, equipment and spare parts to remedy any situation during the race. The teams appear to be ready for any mechanical failure or accident. So what’s in your War Wagon for when a mower breaks down on the golf course?

Here a list items that should be a part of the Golf Course Equipment Technician’s War Wagon.

Gas and diesel fuel cans, engine and hydraulic oils, 50/50 mixed gallon of universal coolant and funnel to top off fluids. Twelve-volt jumper box or jumper cables, an assortment of wire, fuses and solderless connectors and jumper wires to momentarily bypass a problematic safety switch. A few electrical test tools including a VOA meter, test light and remote starter switch. For flat tires, a portable air tank or air compressor, a can of fix a flat, flat tire repair kit, a jack and wrenches to change a flat tire including common spare wheels and tires. Also aerosol products like WD-40 to dry wet ignition components and loosen stubborn bolts, brake cleaner, dry gas, starting fluid. For recovery, a tow rope or chain, ratchet strap to secure a failed hydraulic cylinder or broken mower lift arm. A basic set of mechanics hand tools, duct tape and electrical tape and an assortment of hydraulic caps to block off a hydraulic leak, a bag of oil dry. A height of cut gauge, plus a cell phone with internet access to look up part diagrams and service and troubleshooting information. Sometimes breakdowns may even require the use of set of oxygen and acetylene torches.

This a daunting list but having these item at your disposal on the golf course should get you through most breakdowns in record time. I am sure you have items in your War Wagon that I did not mention.

Besides having your own version of War Wagon, what is your back up plan for your mowing equipment? The perfect scenario would be a shop full of back up equipment that is sharpened and ready to go. An alternative to back up equipment is a sharpened spare cutting unit for each key piece of daily used equipment like the greens and tee mowers, trim and fairway including rough mowers.

If you don’t have the luxury of spare cutting units, the next best thing is to have new bed knives and rotary blades for each piece of equipment. Also spare front and rear rollers, hydraulic reel and deck motors. These parts do not have to be brand new parts to be effective. Other spare parts should include extra oil, air, hydraulic and fuel filters and popular v belts. There is room in every budget for some preparation on how to handle equipment breakdowns.

Now take a look at your fleet whether it’s large or small, has every piece of equipment been serviced and prepared for the season? If you have not been keeping maintenance records for each piece, now is the time to start. Pick up a few packs of vinyl numbers sets from the local office supply and number each piece of equipment so it can be easily identified and logged with its model and serial number in a maintenance record book. Your logbook can be on paper in a binder or build a spreadsheet on your PC, laptop or smartphone. Keeping records allow you to plan when routine maintenance is needed. The easiest way to track record keeping is with the equipment’s hour meter. Make sure the hour meters function on each piece of equipment.

It really does not take a lot of preparation to be ready to begin the season. You just need a little planning and some double checks of your equipment. In a week or so before the first crew members come back and begin the season, take the time for a final check of the equipment. Just as a pilots performs a pre-check of his airplane you are making your pre check of the mowers for proper operation. Recheck the fluid levels, tire condition, and air pressure, fill gas or diesel fuel tanks, add a shot of fuel stabilizer if you had not done so at the end of last season. If your operators are not in the habit of checking fuel and oil levels and tire condition before leaving the shop get them to do so. This will significantly reduce breakdowns out on the golf course. I would like to hear what is in your War Wagon. Are you ready for the 2018 season? Feel free to submit your comments or questions to Brian Duffy at

So, when the green flag drops on your mowing season and that first belts breaks or tire goes flat you will be ready to make timely repair and get the mower back out in the field. It is great feeling when you can perform like a top notch one-man pit crew and get the repair done in a timely manner. The Golf Course Superintendent and crew will most certainly appreciate your time and effort spent in preparation over the off season.

Brian Duffy’s career spans thirty-five plus years in the golf industry. With a diverse background of working on golf courses and turning wrenches on all types of equipment. Plus teaching Golf Course Equipment Mechanics and progressing into turf equipment sales and service. For any questions, comment or ideas contact me at

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