The search for the WhatKit? Turf Care Product of the Year 2015 began with a long list of 30 items of kit.
All introduced to the UK market between December 2013 and December 2014 - and all reflecting the dynamism and innovation in the professional turf-maintenance market - those 30 contenders were then whittled down to a shortlist of eight for further assessment and judging.
After considerable deliberation we have reached a verdict and can now name the WhatKit? Turf Care Product of the Year 2015 - the VGR Topchanger from Campey Turf Care Systems.
It is the aim of this award to celebrate the very best in professional kit and machinery. As such we were looking for an item that shows innovation and delivers excellence in the preparation and/or presentation of golf, sports or amenity turf areas.
Our shortlist included ATT's 26in INFiNiSystem, BLEC's Greens Disc Seeder, the latest Combination Turf Groomer from SCH (Supplies), fertiliser spreaders from Sherriff Amenity and DMMP, the Ki line marker from Fleet and Toro's GreensPro roller.
The VGR Topchanger combines aeration and sanding in one efficient action and, true to its name, brings about a change. For aeration it is relatively speedy in that it is a multiple-action machine. It relieves compaction and lays the foundations for excellent grass growth yet causes minimal disruption.
Traditionally aeration takes a lot of time and needs to be carried out on a regular basis. The VGR Topchanger works by putting sand into the soil, helping to stabilise the aeration holes and providing aeration for longer.
As well as sand, the kit is also able to place nutrients, wetting agents, liquids and soil improvers directly into the root zone.
A big advantage is the sleek finish to the filled holes. Pressurised water, up to 4,061psi, is injected to a depth of 8in at regular close spacings, so breaking through compacted layers and creating a pathway to the root zone but without damaging the soil.
These holes are instantly filled with kiln-dried sand, without spillage, to maintain their stability and provide a more sustained improvement to the drainage.
This is achieved with a minimal amount of disruption to players. In fact, play can resume within one hour of the start of the operation.
The holes created by the process are typically 4in (50mm) deep and are fully filled with the sand breaking through the layers and connecting the lower and upper layers for effective drainage. The result is a well-perforated top layer in which the roots are able to develop.
Surprisingly, the machine, which has a working width of 1.6m, weighs only 410kg and is suitable for use behind small tractors of 50-60hp, driven by the power take-off.
Its working speed is between 0.5kph and 2kph, and the operation uses approximately 3,600 litres of water per hour.
The VGR Topchanger has already proven itself on the Golfpark Almkreek in the Netherlands. After using it, the course has seen very little disease or compaction.
UK golf courses and sports facilities now booking demonstrations include the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Mere Golf Resort & Spa near Knutsford and Trevose Golf Club in Cornwall.
VGR Topchanger: Judges' comments
"A fantastic idea - could be a game changer for many golf courses around the world."
"We especially like this machine because it can both aerate and insert sand, wetting agents, nutrients, fertilisers and any other additives - liquid or solid - in one action and causes minimal disturbance."
"It has been designed with golf courses in mind but we feel it would also be ideal for other areas of sports turf such as rugby and football pitches."
"From our college's point of view it makes a great teaching and research tool because it can be used for the application of a wide range of materials that can quickly benefit the sward."
"This piece of equipment is a good development for soil exchange and the application of nutrients direct to the root of the plant with minimal disturbance and with potential for broader applications for turf maintenance."
ATT InFiNiSystem 26in - The Grass Group
BLEC golf green disc overseeder - BLEC Global
Duo Spreader - Sherriff Amenity
Earthway Flex-Select spreader - DMMP
Ki line marker - Fleet Line Markers
SCH Combination Turf Groomer - SCH (Supplies)
GreensPro 1240 greens roller - Toro
For extensive machine listings for landscape, groundscare, arboriculture and green keeping and other horticultural kit, go to www.whatkit.co.uk.