Why Foley grinders could transform your golf course

By Alistair April 19, 2021 10:00

The chief executive officer and president of Foley Company, Paul Rauker, talks about why the company’s grinders have been so successful in the USA – and what they can do for golf courses in the UK.

How long have you been at Foley, what did you do before that and what is your personal mission?

I joined Foley August of 2018 so almost three years. Prior to Foley I worked for 3M, Honeywell and Daikin where I managed various product lines / businesses ranging from mature products such as ScotchBrite® for professional use to developing an entirely new product in the IoT world for Daikin. I have worked in various Industries but always had a vision to work in the recreational industry. My personal mission is driven by my desire to create a people / family-oriented culture where the company is primarily driven to succeed but success is defined by ‘We all succeed’ down to every employee no matter what their position. Share success with everyone and create loyalty to and from the employees.

Foley has been a popular option at golf courses across the USA for some time. What is Foley’s brand share of American golf clubs and why do golf course superintendents prefer to invest in a Foley Grinder?

I believe we are the leader in the America’s and globally which is based on our initial history of quality and innovation. Foley was the first to develop a completely enclosed unit to address dust and noise in 1993, which in turn forced us to automate. This innovation toward safety and productivity allowed us to make spin and relief grinding hands-free and we are the only supplier in the world that have the features we do today. We continue to grow and increase market share worldwide because of the simplicity we have designed into the operation of the machines. Set-up is now all visual for the operator, and superintendents see the huge benefit this brings as new inexperienced operators now have an ability to produce a high-quality grind. So, whether it’s touch-up spin grinding or returning to OEM specifications, superintendents choice to do either has been a big contributor of conversions to the Foley brand. Course superintendents have become more quality conscious over the years and the industry is seeing investments being made for grinders that do more than just spin grind. This is where Foley separates ourselves from everyone else and with grinders being a 10 to 15, even a 20 year purchase, Foley has become the choice.

In the past year you have moved to new premises. How much of a positive impact will that have for the company going forward, and what motivated the move?

Yes, we invested in a new 6,300 square metre facility in Prescott, Wisconsin where we spent two years planning and executing based on what our current needs are today and future expansion. We focused on creating new office space to give our employees a comfortable and inviting space which all leads to higher productivity. We leverage a local industrial design firm who helped us with the layout to ensure an efficient production process in line with lean manufacturing. In addition, the new training centre is very customer focused and will allow us to increase our educational and training opportunities. We essentially outgrew our prior facility and the area we moved to allows us to draw on a larger employee base to match our growth.

What role does customer feedback play and how important is this in the innovation and development of the new generation Foley Grinders, customer service and training?

Customer feedback is an essential element to our new product development process. We now carry out ‘Voice of the Customer’ with our sales and marketing team highly integrated with engineering and development. Usability is key to acceptance of any product and that is why with our new products we ensure it is field tested by actual users prior to commercial launch. We have leveraged video-conferencing the past few years even prior to Covid to better analyse and respond in our customer service group as well as training online.

You offer a wide range of high-quality machines that cater for varying budgets and that in some cases can be easily upgraded, if needed. What are the true benefits to the course manager when using a Foley Grinder and what can they be assured of every time they grind?

Foley has always been known for quality control and capability and this has been the case from top to bottom of the range. Our lower range reel grinder does everything the more expensive units do, which opens the door for lower budget courses to acquire. While set-up may be quite different than the higher end units, the assurance of the option to conduct a quick touch-up spin grind with the highest quality result because of our gauging process or returning the reel to OEM specification is always a choice that can be made by the managers in the maintenance area.

Foley has begun making a bigger impression in the UK through ProSport UK with more course managers expressing interest. What are the discernible differences between Foley Grinders and others on the market that a course manager and club looking to invest should be made aware of?

The first key difference for Foley is Ian Robson who is highly respected and is the face of Foley. Our difference always starts with our employees and partners. The largest difference between us and the competition is we focus on OEM specification, ease of use and reliability which we are the global leader in delivering.

Foley has some notable customers in the UK, including St Andrews and Carnoustie. What is it that has led these clubs and an increasing number of others to choose Foley Grinders?

I think it’s the same reason that the top clubs in the US have been using Foley for many years and why several have converted in the more recent years. They understand that grinders are one of the most important ‘shop tool’ investments made, and it is truly the only investment made to take care of what does all the work and provides the quality-of-cut, the cutting head. With this in mind, we think it’s as simple as people opting for more quality control capability from this investment and with Foley’s innovative changes in set-up, the option to do as little as the operator wants, spin-only, or as much, returning to OEM specs, is very easy.

Customer support is a massive factor for any golf club. How do you facilitate this in the UK and what level of technical / training / technical support are you able to deliver and through what channels?

Back to Ian Robson who assists virtually as well as will physically go to the golf club to diagnose and ensure the equipment is brought back to full operating capabilities. We also have inventory maintained with our other European partner Milati Grass Machines out of The Netherlands which ensures a quick part replacement or upgrade timeframe. If needed, we have customer support that can be set up to ensure coverage in different time zones.

You have also looked to invest in the industry in the UK through BIGGA, and through the benefits of relief grinding back to OEM spec, which Foley places a lot of emphasis on. Firstly, how important is relief grinding, and why is it something people should consider?

Once the reel loses the original relief, horsepower required to simply rotate the reels can increase from an approximate 0.8hp per cutting unit to as much as 2.5hp per unit. Your five-gang or tri-plex still cuts, it still works, and it is designed to function like this, but you can easily see that operating like this can negatively affect the overall life and performance of the cutting equipment. A simple re-conditioning of the reels not only minimises load on the engine and hydraulic systems, but it ultimately saves money on fuel and premature wear of components. Adjustments are easier, units stay on cut longer, and not having to backlap or grind as often will lower operating costs. Therefore Foley has always talked about grinding being more than a sharpening process. It is a reshaping / reconditioning process to make the reel like new and in the big picture, it’s all about minimising potential for issues. No question relief plays a role in this and therefore every manufacturer makes it a standard as part of their reel design.

You have recently acquired the globally popular Air2G2*, which is new ground for Foley as a company. How has this complimented your product portfolio and what benefits will this deliver to Foley and your customers, are there further plans to expand the product range?

Foley has always been focused on the health of the turf, primarily the cut of the grass. With this we wanted to expand to a more complete offering of ‘Above and Below’ so acquiring Air2G2 enabled us to be more about the turf. Air2G2 combined with the standard aeration process creates the ‘1+1=3’ by decompaction and pushes the CO2 out of the soil thus creating a healthier environment for root growth. The decompaction also allows for better water absorption all while not interrupting play as you can use all season long. We do have additional products in the works and hope to let everyone know once we have completed development and customer tested.

For more information, visit www.prosportukltd.com/reel-grinders

* Air2G2 is available in the UK through Campey Turf Care Systems


By Alistair April 19, 2021 10:00

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