Jacobsen's Olympian Feat

First cut of a fairway by Neil Cleverly in October 2014.
First cut of a fairway by Neil Cleverly in October 2014.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: It’s the premier sporting occasion on the planet, watched by a global television audience estimated at more than 3.6 billion.
And the products of Asian Golf Industry Federation [AGIF] Executive Member Jacobsen will play their part as golf returns to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, after a 112-year absence.
It was in the spring of 2014 that Jacobsen was confirmed as the preferred supplier of the mowing equipment.
Alan Prickett, Managing Director of Ransomes Jacobsen in the United Kingdom and a former Board Member of the AGIF, said: “One of the deciding factors was that we have a local distributor in Brazil. ProGolf has represented the Jacobsen brand in Brazil since 2012 as well as Ryan, Turfco and Smithco; three companies with whom we have excellent working relationships across the globe.
“ProGolf’s core business is golf course construction, and they are working as sub-contractors at the Olympic course.
“It’s a tremendous accolade to be associated with the Rio Olympic golf course and, once again, we’re delighted to be involved with the Olympic Games as it continues a tradition for our business that goes back over many decades. This was a particularly important win for us, as it marks the return of golf as an Olympic sport after more than a century, and it’s sure to be one of the high-profile events at the Games.
“Our Regional Sales Manager, Frederico Santa-Barbara, has worked extremely diligently in both the run-up to our appointment and in the 18 months since. He visits the course at least once a week to ensure that everything is progressing as it should, and we have ProGolf on course full time in their construction capacity.”
The Gil Hanse-designed golf course has been constructed in Barra da Tijuca, a district of Rio de Janeiro that contains the largest number of Olympic Games venues and is located seven kilometres from the Athlete’s Village.
With turfing underway in May 2014, the initial delivery of 18 Jacobsen machines followed a month later. This consisted of three Eclipse2 walking greens mowers, two Eclipse 322 hybrid powered ride-on greens mowers, four Greens King walking mowers, one SLF1880 super light fairway mower, two LF3800 fairway mowers, three Turfcat out-front ride-on rotary mowers, two UK-built TR3 reel mowers for tees and surrounds and a GA30 pedestrian aerator.
“The Eclipse mowers are an important part of the package,” said Santa-Barbara. “[Course Superintendent] Neil Cleverly and his team consider them to be the best greens mowers on the market; they are the only mowers with total control over the number of cuts per metre and the reels on the walking versions can be used on the ride-on machine, providing great flexibility. The other key element is that there is absolutely no possibility of an oil spill on the greens, because these are hybrid machines and do not use hydraulic oil.”
After a delay due to a customs-related issue with the irrigation system, construction of the course began towards the end of 2013. Based on a typical layout that would be found in Australia’s sand belt around the Melbourne area, the course features natural vegetation, extensive bunkers, a lagoon and sandy rough ground lining the fairways.
The mix of grass species is an interesting one with Zeon Zoysia used extensively on tees and fairways, while SeaDwarf Seaside Paspalum is used on the greens.
Both species are drought tolerant and the Paspalum is also saltwater tolerant, which is important as the quality of the irrigation water will be variable. None of the grass on the course has been grown ‘in situ’ from seed; all the grass cover has been laid as turf or sprigs.
Neil Cleverly (standing) with grass breeder David Douget (seated) in May 2014 as planting begins.
Neil Cleverly (standing) with grass breeder David Douget (seated) in May 2014 as planting begins.

Marcello Matte is the owner of Green Grass Brazil, who is responsible for producing the grass that has been used across the 35 hectare (85-acre) site. The Zeon Zoysia cultivar, explicitly for use on golf courses, has been developed by grass breeder David Douget of Bladerunner Farms in Texas, USA.
The planting of the golf course began in May 2014, using three different approaches; the majority of the Zeon Zoysia areas – tees and fairways – were planted using large rolls of turf, but some areas were planted using oblong-shaped turf sods. The SeaDwarf Seaside Paspalum used on the greens were all planted as sprigs.
As well as being drought tolerant, Zeon Zoysia has low fertiliser requirements and grows in a dense mat, which helps with weed suppression.
English Course Superintendent Cleverly, a member of BIGGA, landed one of the most sought-after jobs in the industry in June 2013. With a portfolio that encompasses Europe, Asia and the USA, he is experienced in the management of warm season grasses.
Commenting during a conversation with Golfdom magazine in October 2014, Hanse said: “I didn’t meet him until after he was selected. He was interviewed at the GCSAA show in San Diego, which I was unable to attend. Jim Wagner from our company went down and was part of the team that interviewed him. By all accounts Neil did a great job, he’s got a ton of experience overseas, primarily with warm season grasses, which was a bonus.
“Although he doesn’t have experience with Zeon Zoysia, which is the primary grass on-site, he’s well equipped to deal with it and he has been a Godsend. During the early parts of construction it was basically me and a couple of guys who work with me down there. Working without a project manager and trying to make sense of it all was difficult, and then when Neil showed up he immediately took over as project manager.
“He got very involved in the earth moving and quickly demonstrated what he could bring to the project. He is not only a great turf manager, but also an excellent project manager from the construction standpoint. So he has been the rock of the construction part of the project.”
*Part two of this special feature will be published tomorrow

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