Golf Course Management

DEC 2012

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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THE INSIDER: shop Scott R. Nesbitt Look for pressurized dry-gas fuel tanks to become more common on golf equipment in coming years. Photo by Scott Nesbitt Dry gas power Propane power is finally coming to the turf care business, bringing some changes to the world of golf fleet managers and technicians. Dollars are driving the technology. Prices for NEWS & notes The International Golf Course Equipment Managers Associa- tion (IGCEMA) is seeking a few golf courses to participate in a study of a new height-of-cut gauge. The gauge was designed by equipment managers to address inconsistencies in current height gauges. The 18-inch, 3.7-pound gauge is made to eliminate the flex- ing that can cause deviation from the desired height of cut and to allow multiple users to set up machines with repeatable results. Prototypes have been manufactured, and the IGCEMA would like to have golf course man- agement teams try out the gauge and submit feedback before the product is officially released in February at the Golf Industry Show in San Diego. The gauge will be sold through the IGCEMA website and will be available to members at a reduced price and to non-members. For additional informa- tion, contact Stephen Tucker, oil-based fuel (gasoline and diesel) have been rising for several years. Meanwhile, natural gas prices have trended down, thanks to new min- ing technologies and discovery of new fields in North America. These market changes have shrunk the cost advantage long held by liquid fuels. In the near future, the cost advantage may lie with "dry" fuels like propane and natural gas, which exist naturally in gaseous form at temperatures that humans can tolerate. Propane is a molecule with three carbon atoms and eight hydrogen atoms. Natural gas is mostly methane (one carbon and four hydrogen atoms) with other gases often present. The ultra-clean exhaust emissions from dry fuel engines has for decades made them common on warehouse forklifts and on floor cleaners used in grocery and department stores. The technol- ogy is well established. Maintenance and service is well within the knowledge, skill and tool sets pos- sessed by the typical golf equipment technician. A propane engine is internally the same as a gasoline engine. The same ignition/spark system can be used. The major difference is installing a pressurized tank, lines, nozzles, valves and regu- lators to supply gaseous fuel to the intake system. These pieces replace the carburetor (or fuel-injec- tion system), which forces liquid fuel to atomize into a vapor. Earlier this year, Kubota introduced a 31-horsepower ZP330 propane version of its front-deck rotary commercial mower 34 GCM December 2012 chassis. Kohler and Honda are rolling out propane ver- sions of engines. These target the range of 15-30 horsepower commonly found on commercial turn equipment. Kits to convert existing gasoline engines to dry fuel are available from several sources. Check with the maker of your specific engines to find out if factory-recommended kits are available. In general, an engine designed for unleaded gaso- line will suffer no negative mechanical internal impacts when converted to dry fuel, although converted engines run a bit hotter. Diesels don't easily convert to dry fuel because they lack spark-ignition systems, and dry fuels are not compatible with the high compression that creates the heat that ignites the oily diesel fuel. Other than swapping tanks rather than pumping liquid fuel, operation of propane or dry fuel equipment should produce one major nota- ble change — reduced engine power after con- version from gasoline. Briggs & Stratton says this power drop may run 5-20 percent. The opera- tor (or engine governor) may simply have to add more fuel to compensate. On the plus side, you'll find that with dry fuel engine oil stays cleaner longer, spark plugs last longer, and there is no possibility of liquid fuel leaking onto hot engine parts. GCM Scott R. Nesbitt ( is a free-lance writer and former GCSAA staff member. He lives in Cleveland, Ga.

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