James Wilkinson of The Buckinghamshire explains why he chooses relief grinding from Foley
Despite being scarce at UK golf clubs, those with a dedicated mechanic know the workshop is the beating heart of the greenkeeping operation.
Since 2005, James Wilkinson has been Buckinghamshire Golf Clubs Workshop and Equipment Manager, and over 17 years has created a workshop and grinding room befitting of the course where it is located.
Grinding has been in-house at Buckinghamshire since it opened in 1992. It is a small part of the club’s success that has seen it host the Rose Ladies Series, the Anderson Consulting World Match Play, the European Seniors Tournament Champions hosted by Gary Player and ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters.
The quality on and off the course has gone some way to making the club home of the Ladies European Tour, but away from the impressive course and clubhouse in the greenkeeping shed is where James keeps the operation moving.
In November 2021, after just over two decades with his previous Foley Company grinders, James added an Accu-Pro 633 with AccuTouch3 and an Accu-Pro 672 bedknife grinder to his immaculate grinding room. For James, the new pair of American-made machines are ahead of the curve in terms of features and provide exactly what he needs to keep the Buckinghamshire mowers ready for action.
“There are a lot more benefits with the new grinders. Obviously, technology moved on in the last 20-odd years from our old Foley’s. So, even though we were getting good results before, we’re getting better results now, much more superior and much better quality.
“You now have the digital AccuTouch screen, so you can programme cycles into it, you can see exactly what’s going on, make sure they are parallel and vertical, and there’s so much in-depth information that I don’t even know all of it yet. I’m still learning every single time I use them.”
James has plenty of opportunities to study his new tools with the grinders in use all year round. The heavy work takes place during the winter with all the units stripped down, bearings checked, spin ground and then crucially relief ground, and it is here where he sees the biggest benefit.
On average, he saves ten minutes per unit on preparation for relief grinding back to OEM spec and using automation he can leave both grinders to work while he completes other tasks. However, it is the practice itself that he believes is crucial in getting the highest quality of cut.
“Relief grinding is extremely important. Every equipment manager will have their own way of doing things, and every equipment manager will believe in what they do. Some will believe relief grinding maybe isn’t necessary, and some people will swear by it. If you look at the big three manufacturers, Toro, Jacobsen and John Deere, they will all recommend that you relief grind to their specifications.
“You’re removing metal from the trailing edge of the blade. So, I’m basically forming an angle to reduce the contact area of the cutting edges. I’m going to have less heat and less friction because more metal equals more heat, and this reduces the blade contact, which again gives me less friction.”
Using the advancements in technology to streamline grinding has been a significant positive with the Accu-Pro 633, but when it comes to bedknife grinding, for James, the best got even better.
“The 672 hasn’t changed much from my last one, but the reason it hasn’t changed much is that it was so good. The saying is if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. You can absolutely improve things, but the actual mechanics haven’t really changed a lot.
“With that, it is a semi-automatic bedknife grinder. The bedknife itself is held on by electromagnets, so it holds the bar in place so it cannot move. It means you don’t have to clamp anything to it, there are no brackets, and on other machines, you have to mess around and get it into a holder, but you don’t have any of that on this.
Keeping the Buckinghamshire fleet sharp is part of James’ broader strategy to reduce machinery downtime and ensure that his workshop is always empty and the machines are always ready. Investing in new equipment is crucial to this success, and for the next two decades at least, he is confident he can count on his Foley grinders.