Over the past few years, equipment lifts for servicing turf equipment have become the norm in a well-run, efficient golf or grounds maintenance facility. In fact, a recent article in Golf Course News (“The Future is Now,” by Mark Leslie, March, 2000) put lifts at the top of the list in equipping a modern turf-care center.

Lifts can be extremely useful for a variety of tasks common to all golf courses. These tasks can be simple, such as oft-repeated tasks like bed knife adjustment, to more complicated and time-consuming machine rebuilding. The extent to which these tasks can be efficiently performed on a lift with improved visibility and accessibility determines the real value of the lift selected for your shop.

The greatest time demand for mowing equipment is routine. It comes in small increments repeated over and over again. If a lift can improve both productivity and performance in these tasks, we can have the greatest impact on the mechanic’s efforts.

Since the basic purpose of investing in a lift is to use it, the more it is used the more benefit we derive from owning it. A lift should not be viewed like a fire truck; great when needed, but you hope you never do. Make the correct selection, and you’ll know that your mowing equipment has received the best possible preparation that the right tools can provide. Because this is one piece of equipment that will be around for many years, carefully consider and weigh each feature against your expectations.

Golf courses have operated for a long time without lifts. What’s different now?
Prior to 1970 golf course mowing equipment was crude and unsophisticated. Much of the work was accomplished with hand tools requiring a large labor force and much of the mowing equipment used belts and chains that required constant repairs. During the 70’s and early 80’s, large, highly productive mowing equipment was introduced that permitted excellent playing conditions with only a few pieces of equipment. The average labor force to maintain an 18 hole course had fallen to 7 people.

By the early 80’s a few superintendents were discovering turf grass problems associated with heavy mowing equipment. Some experimented with “light weight” mowing such as triplexing fairways and returning to walking greens. The remarkable improvement in turf grass health and exceptional appearance of precision cut fairways resulted in a revolution in mowing equipment design. Large mowers became obsolete; replaced by several smaller light-weight mowers with more precision and sophistication. The average labor force to maintain an 18 hole golf course has grown to 13 people with an even greater impact on equipment maintenance. Today, most golf courses require more than one mechanic.

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What if a lift were available to do the easy tasks? What possible benefit would that be?
Experience has confirmed that lifts which aid in performing simple, routine maintenance result in improved performance, such as reel adjustments being consistently more accurate, the quality of cut is better and height of cut more uniform. Loose bolts, worn or damaged components that could lead to premature equipment failures are more often discovered early enough to be repaired on a scheduled basis.

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“TURF LIFTS” have been around awhile. What are those courses experiencing?
The results are varied. Some courses find they have wasted their money and used up valuable shop space. They find it difficult to explain a large piece of equipment that seldom gets used. Other superintendents rave about the results and state it is the best investment they’ve ever made. They can’t imagine ever managing a golf course without one.

How come there is such a big difference in results?
There are many manufacturers to choose from when selecting a lift and the lift designs they offer have different design objectives. Most manufacturers are from the automotive and truck industry with a primary focus on repairs. The high weight capacities with heavy hard to use components and many complex adjustments make them too inefficient for day to day use. Some manufacturers specialize in turf lifts and their products have been designed specifically to address the daily needs of turf equipment. These are the high performance lifts that are revolutionizing turf equipment maintenance.

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How will owning a HIGH PERFORMANCE lift change my equipment maintenance operation?
Owning a fast, easy to use high performance lift opens the door to many benefits that have never been possible before. Over the years we’ve seen significant progress from the “break it and fix it” approach to more logical preventive maintenance plans. Now the opportunity is there to progress to the next level of predictive maintenance without adding to the overall work load. Since a high performance lift requires only a few seconds to load and use, simple every day tasks can be accomplished in less time. The result is more accurate adjustment and higher overall mower performance with time available for critical inspections that can reduce or eliminate breakdowns. The quality control value of daily equipment “certification for use” can improve the quality of the course appearance and provide confidence and peace of mind that comes with knowing every piece of equipment has been evaluated and judged fit for use on a daily basis.

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Is there really enough difference in lift brands to justify buying one over another?
Absolutely! If you want better mower performance, the most important criteria, before any other consideration, is ease of use. You should select a lift with the safety release and pump control in one location. Avoid lifts that require extra adjustments or add on parts for accommodating your equipment. If add ons are necessary, they should at least be adaptable without tools.

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Isn’t weight capacity a good measure of a lift’s value?
Doesn’t a lift with more capacity do more?

No! It’s probably the worst measure, because it poses the opposite situation. If speed and agility are the core lift attributes to improve the quality of mowing equipment preparation, too much capacity can be a detriment. It makes about as much sense as entering a dump truck in the Indianapolis 500.

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Automotive lifts are cheaper. Don’t they represent the best value?
The low cost of automotive swing arm lifts can be real tempting, but there are three factors that should be considered before making that choice. First, lifts designed for automotive use are not suitable for picking up most turf equipment. Autos and trucks have frame or body structures that permit lift pads to be placed under the vehicle. Since most mowers are not so equipped or lift points are obstructed by cutting units, it is not possible to securely and efficiently use this type of lift for most mowers.

Secondly, the unusual configuration of mowers requires skill in the lift design. Improperly designed modifications create a risk to the safety of the operator and his equipment. Those who copy adapter designs should be aware that even homemade adapters made only for personal use may represent patent infringement against the original manufacturer.

Thirdly, OSHA requires operator protection from potential injury. The swing arms on automotive lifts lower very close to the ground to enable them to extend under autos. Although they do not pose a risk to the lift operator when lifting autos because they are under the auto during use (“guarded by position”), they do present a unguarded pinch point to the operator’s foot when they are extended straight alongside turf equipment. Only one turf lift manufacturer has recognized this risk and provided a base beam as a foot barrier. This beam also clearly defines the safe operation zone around the lift.

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But doesn’t a top beam interfere with canopies and roll bars?
All lift companies have ways to accommodate mowers with roll bars, canopies and cabs. One company offers height extensions that permit greater lift height. Another company has designed their lift to permit overhung (cantilever) loading so that roll bars and canopies will pass in front of the top beam. That lift is even equipped with a loading decal system that helps locate appropriate equipment positions to eliminate any guess-work.

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Trion Lifts, Inc.
1-800-426-3634 or 334-488-3939
For service parts or service assistance call 800-426-3634 or go to Trion Lifts Parts

Copyright 2003, Trion Lifts, Inc.