Date: Mon 16 Dec 2019

100 Years of Innovation in Golf — Part 3: Greens

This series of articles will attempt to capture just a few innovations, old and new, that EIGCA Gold Partner Toro has developed over the past 100 years to help our customers meet the ongoing challenges of maintaining their golf courses.

Toro’s first president, John Samuel Clapper, demonstrates the first all-electric-powered greensmower in 1928.

Toro’s first president, John Samuel Clapper, demonstrates the first all-electric-powered greensmower in 1928.

In each article, our intent is to quietly honor the customers, channel partners and Toro employees that have all contributed to our longevity and success.

Innovations often start with a challenge that needs to be solved. In the third article of our series, we’re turning the spotlight on some of the ways Toro has solved the ever-present challenge of maintaining top-notch, picture-perfect greens over the past 100 years.

Handling Tough Grasses
Our first product for greens care was the manually powered Toro Standard Putting Green Mower, developed in 1923. It was the industry’s first roller-type greensmower, built specifically to handle creeping bent — the premier grass for golf putting greens at the time. The mower also easily cut the heavily matted Bermuda grasses used in southern markets.

The design featured machine-cut gears that were fully enclosed in an oil-tight, dirt-proof housing, as well as Hyatt roller bearings, reflecting the highest class of construction of the day. It proved to be a great success, considered by golf course superintendents to be America’s finest greensmower. In fact, by 1940, more than 80 percent of all 18-hole golf courses in the country and practically every National Championship Golf Course used the Toro Putting Green Mower, a record unmatched by any other mower.

The Toro Putting Green Mower was the industry standard for more than two decades until powered mowers began to dominate. Although a motorized version was available for a time, production ended on this model in 1950.

An Idea Before Its Time
Not every historic Toro innovation achieved the level of commercial success of the Toro Putting Green Mower. A case in point is the first all-electric-powered greensmower, introduced by Toro in 1928. Although the Detroit News called it “one of the most advanced ideas in mowers,” the concept was several decades before its time — as customers were not seeking out alternatively powered equipment in the 1920s.

There was also a practical reason more golf courses didn’t adopt the mower. It was corded, and since most courses did not have electrical outlets on — or near — their greens, they either had to use a portable generator to power the mower or run it off of a nearby tractor.

There is a silver lining to the story, as Toro president John Samuel Clapper’s patent on the unit also covered a design for electric-powered cutting reels that ran off the tractor to which they were mounted — an idea that still resonates with customers today. It’s just one example of Clapper’s and Toro’s forward-looking focus on providing innovative solutions to solve customers’ challenges.

Fortunately, Clapper’s many other innovations proved more practical and helped transform the business. He holds 16 U.S. patents and was responsible for countless other innovations for which he did not seek patent protection.

Still Going Strong

A great example of Toro’s commitment to quality over the years is the first Toro Greensmaster 3 ride-on mower sold to the West Herts Golf Club in Hertfordshire, UK, in 1969 — and still going today! Rochelle Bedford, marketing manager at Reesink Turfcare, the sole Toro distributor in the UK for golf and sports fields equipment and irrigation products, says: “As Toro celebrates its centennial milestone serving the golf industry across the world, it encouraged us to look back at how it all began for Toro in the UK.”

They tracked down the original Greensmaster 3. When they learned it was still operating, they returned it to its original owner. Andy Smith, course manager at West Herts Golf Club since 1993, says it was a ‘blast from the past’ having the GM3 back at the club: “Seeing the GM3 really took me back to how things used to be. West Herts is a Toro club through and through. From the very beginning it recognised the quality of Toro and all these years later, we still consider it to be the brand to be beaten.”

The Future of Greens Mowing
Fast-forward nearly 50 years to the cutting edge of electric technology. In 2012, Toro pioneered the Greensmaster eFlex model, which was the first Lithium-Ion powered walk greensmower to be able to mow nine greens on a single charge. Shortly thereafter, Toro began to develop the Greensmaster eTriFlex Series, the most advanced all-electric riding greensmower on the market. The revolutionary non-hydraulic design, announced in February 2019, utilizes all-electric components for traction, steering, lift and cutting. All models feature reduced noise and lower operational costs vs. traditional engine/hydraulic models, and — as you’d expect — the new eTriFlex models completely eliminate the worry of hydraulic leaks.

For a consistent, high quality-of-cut and a uniform aftercut appearance, the machine comes standard with the patent-pending Radius Dependent Speed (RDS) system. The RDS system is an independent clip rate and wheel speed control capability that varies both the speeds of each reel and each wheel to maintain a constant clip rate and to minimize damage from tire scrubbing in turns, respectively. This feature reduces turf thinning on the inside reel in contrast to traditional triplexes, therefore minimizing the phenomenon known as “Triplex Ring.”

The engine-generator powered eTriFlex with battery-assist technology is up to 20 percent more fuel-efficient, resulting in lower emissions and fuel savings. The industry-first lithium-ion battery-powered eTriFlex rider also has ample power and is virtually silent during operation. Operators also have more control and access to advanced diagnostic information than ever before, thanks to the onboard InfoCenter.

A New Legend Is Born
Our dedication to developing new and innovative greensmowers also continues today with the legendary new Greensmaster 1000 Series fixed-head walk greensmowers. This groundbreaking design makes it possible for the operator and mower to work in perfect harmony to achieve the most consistent quality-of-cut and best playing experience for golfers on each and every green.

Expertly engineered to eliminate variability among operators of different sizes and skill levels, the Greensmaster 1000 Series features an industry-first telescoping loop handle that can be quickly adjusted to accommodate operators of varying heights. Handle isolation mounts also give the cutting units consistent contact with the ground to eliminate variability in height-of cut due to variations in handle pressure or operator strides.

Other key features include a unique dual-function bail that combines safety and operational control, as well as easy-to-change-out DPA cutting units with EdgeSeries™ reels for a crisp, close, precise cut. In addition, the entire maintenance process is streamlined to maximize uptime.

What’s Coming Next?
Keep watching future Toro Advantage newsletters for more articles in the 100 Years of Innovation in Golf series, where we’ll continue to cover where we’ve been and where we’re going in the future. We’ll focus on Toro innovations for aeration, grooming and more in the coming months, so stay tuned!

For more information on Toro, please visit the website or contact your local Toro distributor.

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