Versatility makes utility vehicles a fan favorite in sports field maintenance

John Deere’s Gator TX is designed as an all-around utility vehicle with a light footprint.
Photo courtesy of John Deere.

Need to run out to check the sprinkler on the far field? Have to move some infield mix for a repair job on the pitcher’s mound? Got to drag an infield or spread topdressing or move a crew? Chances are good that for any of these jobs, and hundreds of others, you turn to your utility vehicle. Sports field managers must be jacks-of-all-trades, and a good utility vehicle must be the same.

John Deere’s lineup of Gator vehicles comes in two basic configurations: heavy-duty (the ProGator), and general utility vehicles (the Gator TX and TE). “With the ProGator, we have both a gas and a diesel model and both two and four-wheel drive options. They are made for heavy hauling, whether it’s sand or mix or fertilizer,” explains Brooks Hastings, product marketing manager with John Deere Golf & Sports.

The heavy-duty vehicle features a higher horsepower than the TX and TE utility vehicles because the ProGator can be outfitted not only with a cargo bed, but also rear-mounted attachments such as a topdresser, fertilizer spreader and a 200 or 300-gallon sprayer. “For those who maintain a large sports complex, especially soccer pitches where there might be eight or 10 or more fields, a larger sprayer like that might make sense,” notes Hastings. The standard cargo box can be quickly taken off by removing a few pins to create a flat mounting platform for the attachments, which can be purchased separately. “We’ve tried to make it so that a turf manager can buy one vehicle and use that one traction until to do all these different things,” he explains.

Club Car’s newly redesigned Carryall 500 series includes a Rhino lining on the cargo floor and a new system of attachments in the bed to free up space and keep items organized.

The lighter TX and TE Gator models are two-wheel drive and have a lower max hauling capacity, but still feature a cargo box rated at 600 pounds, so it can handle many bags of sand or fertilizer. “They’re also frequently used for day-to-day tasks like hauling around hoses, and as people-haulers, just getting from one side of the complex to another,” says Hastings. “They are very popular because they are very maneuverable and easy to use.” They also feature a shorter wheelbase and a lighter footprint, so they can be used for things like pulling infield drag mats and rollers, he adds. “They get used for just about anything you can imagine; they’re just very versatile machines,” concludes Hastings.

Club Car’s Carryall line of utility vehicles includes machines designed more for commercial/industrial applications, as well as some designed for turf applications. “Those managing sports fields could fall into both categories,” explains Rusty Risher, marketing manager with Club Car. The turf package comes with a bed box on the back, a heavy-duty brush guard, a differential guard, turf-friendly tires and heavy-duty trailer hitch. Most of these features can also be ordered on one of the commercial/industrial units, he adds, allowing users to set a machine up for whatever they will use it for, whether it’s maintaining a stadium where there’s more concrete and asphalt surface involved or at a large park and rec complex that’s all turf. The turf units come in green, while the commercial/industrial models can be ordered in white, gray or blue.

While designed mainly for maintaining infields, Broyhill’s Legacy utility vehicles incorporate features like a small cargo box and towing attachments.
Photo courtesy of Broyhill.

The Carryall 500 series is “the workhorse” in the lineup and Club Car’s most popular utility vehicle, says Risher. Previously designated the “Carryall 2,” it was renamed following a complete redesign for the 2014 model year. “The primary things we did was to add a more fuel-efficient, lower-maintenance Subaru electronic fuel-injected engine for all the gasoline models, and upgraded the electrical system on the electric models to include a high-efficiency charging system,” he explains. These are the same features found in today’s automobiles, and Risher says part of the goal of the redesign was to ensure that the utility vehicle drives and performs more like a modern pickup truck.

The floor of the cargo box on the new machine comes with a Rhino lining for increased durability. “We also have a new bed box rail system where grooves are cut into the bed sides and a clamp system can be put in there to hold your tools. There are specific clamps that can hold anything from a string trimmer or backpack blower or shovel or gas can or water cooler. There are cleats that can be put in there as tie-downs, and there’s even a ladder rack,” he adds. This system helps free up space in the beds, so you can haul materials and tools in a more convenient and organized manner.

Broyhill’s “mini utility vehicles” feature a three-wheel design and are targeted mainly at those maintaining baseball fields. While other infield machines on the market are dedicated only to that purpose, Broyhill’s Legacy Sport includes a utility trunk that lets the machine do double-duty. “There’s a small box on the Sport version, and ball field managers use that to store the drying material that they sprinkle onto the field, as well as tools and rakes, hoses, the bases – whatever they need,” explains Craig Broyhill, company president. The 18-hp gasoline Sport model is driven by three hydraulic motors, one driving each wheel.

The Sport includes two hitch options, a clevis hitch and an area for a small receiver hitch. “Those get used a lot for pulling small trailers to haul extra material,” he states. This fall, Broyhill is introducing a Legacy CVT unit, which incorporates a continuously variable transmission. While offering less power than the Sport model, Broyhill says the new unit is designed to offer a less-expensive alternative for budget-minded ball field managers. The new model also incorporates the trunk to make it more useful out in the field.

Cushman’s Hauler Pro is an electric turf utility vehicle with a range of up to up to 50 miles between charges.
Photo courtesy of Cushman.

Cushman’s line of utility vehicles includes both the Hauler and Hauler X (higher ground clearance) models. “They are very versatile and come in a variety of powertrains, including both Kawasaki gas engines and electric (48 or 72-volt) motors,” explains Grace Miller, marketing communications manager with Cushman. The electric models are particularly popular at sports fields where the maintenance needs to be done early in the morning without disturbing neighbors, or during the day when classes or other games are going on, she states. “Depending on the Hauler model you choose, the payload capacity ranges from 800 to 1,200 pounds.” Those sports field managers who will be using the vehicle primarily for transporting people on flat terrain or dragging infields can save some money by selecting one of the lighter-duty models, she points out.

“Plus, the reason most sports turf managers like utility vehicles is that they are smaller and more compact [than trucks], so they offer easy accessibility between fields and the maintenance facility,” Miller adds. The beds on these units feature fold-down tailgates and standard manual-dump capability (electric power-lift dumps are available as an option). Miller says many customers prefer to have Cushman customize their utility vehicles. “They customize their Haulers with sprayers, spreaders and seeders. And a lot of turf managers prefer to have turf-saver tires,” she says noting some popular factory-installed options.

Those who have especially big jobs to do, like hauling large quantities of materials or collecting lots of trash at a large stadium, may opt for the Cushman Haulster, which offers a 2,000-pound payload capacity. The unit comes in gas or diesel configurations and with manual or automatic transmission.

Toro recently introduced its Workman HDX Auto, featuring an automatic transmission that offers both ease of use and increased precision when making applications with attachments.
Photo courtesy of Toro.

Greg Lawrence, product marketing manager at Toro, says the company’s Workman line of utility vehicles is available in several versions. The HD models tend to be popular at highly maintained sports fields, including at the college and professional levels, notes Lawrence: “They have a very high payload, and typically are used to haul either a lot of material or run attachments like topdressers and spreaders.” One example is the new HDX Auto model, which offers an automatic transmission. “It’s really the first machine out there that allows the attachment to get precise application rates. It does this through a proprietary speed control system that allows the operator to set a specific speed and then hold that speed to deliver consistent ground speed as it relates to engine RPM,” he explains. This prevents the fluctuations that can change application rates when spraying or spreading on inclines, for example.

The automatic transmission also makes the HDX Auto easier to operate, especially for those not accustomed to manual transmissions, Lawrence adds. “Now, it’s just get in and go, versus having to teach someone to drive a manual transmission,” he says, noting that ease of use carries safety benefits when various members of a crew might be operating the vehicle. Lawrence adds that the addition of the automatic transmission has come without a reduction in payload or any of the other capabilities of the manual HDX model.

Toro’s Workman MD series is a lighter-duty option, with payloads topping out at 1,600 pounds, depending on model selected. Gas, diesel and electric power plants are available (Lawrence says that gas engines remain the most popular choice in the U.S.). “They’re used to run around, pull smaller attachments like dragging fields, move people – just general grounds work,” explains Lawrence. “They’re just so multipurpose. There are so many things you can do with these utility vehicles. You’re really just limited by your imagination in how you use them.”

Patrick White is a freelance writer and editor who has covered every aspect of the green industry in the past 15 years. He is based in Middlesex, Vermont, and is always on the lookout for interesting and unusual stories. You can contact him at pwhite@meadowridgemedia.com.