Malphrus Puts Volvo to Work on Hilton Head Links

Thu September 30, 2004 - Southeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

While some people head to the links to get away from work, others head to the course to get their work done. Such is the case with Malphrus Construction Company Inc., based in Hilton Head Island, SC.

Whether it’s new construction for an entire course carved out of dense forest and murky swampland or a refurbished facelift to an existing course showing its age, there’s a lot of work to be done on the course.

Malphrus Construction Company has been providing construction services to golf courses along the coast of the southeastern United States since 1956.

A few years ago, Malphrus Construction felt the time was right to formally create a separate golf division that could concentrate on the unique needs and challenges of golf course construction and renovation. So, in 2001, the Malphrus Golf Division was born.

This year Malphrus Golf has worked on 21 different golf projects, ranging from major new builds to course updates that include putting in new bunkers, the coring out and replacement of greens and the addition of better drainage.

Many renovations involve stripping and replacing grass on tee boxes, fairways and even entire courses. Once the land is cleared of the heavy debris, Malphrus primarily uses Volvo Model EC55B compact excavators and Volvo Model L35B compact wheel loaders to handle all the jobs.

“We really need versatile machines that can do the tasks of many,” said J. Todd Malphrus, vice president of the Malphrus Construction Company. “When you’re out in the middle of an open golf course, you want to keep the disturbance and the number of machines to a minimum. ”

Volvo Construction Equipment helps Malphrus work safer, more productive and on course in an industry that continues to drive for more and more new and reconstructed courses.

According to the National Golf Foundation, at the end of 2003 there were 14,827 golf courses in the United States, a more than 25 percent increase from the 11,894 in 1993. New courses are sprouting up to accommodate the increased numbers of golfers. In fact, the total number of American golfers has risen from 23.4 million in 1993 to 37.9 million in 2003.

According to Frank Dabbs, territory sales manager of the Volvo LB Smith dealership in Savannah, GA, Malphrus is ready to keep up by running five Volvo Model EC55B compact excavators and three Volvo Model L35B compact wheel loaders out of the golf division.

“On the mini excavators they run rubber tracks for minimal ground depression. They’re also using a Rototilt excavator attachment for the buckets that gives them 360 degrees of digging rotation,” Dabbs said.

Malphrus Golf uses the Rototilt attachment for various jobs on the course where tight, angular detail work is needed.

“We can save a tremendous amount of handwork using the swiveling bucket when working the sand bunkers,” Malphrus said. “The rotating bucket does all the moving, so we can just park the machine either up on the bank or right down in the bunker. One operator can dig the bunker, shape it and dress it up properly without having to move the machine.”

When working on a construction site, there is little concern with the amount of ground disturbance. But on a pristine golf course, where a single dandelion looks out of place, tire tracks, ruts and severe ground indents do not leave a good impression.

To solve that problem, Malphrus has retrofitted the Model L35B loader with some special extra-wide turf tires that feature increased surface area to lower ground pressure.

Malphrus Golf Division Senior Project Manager David Gray takes it a step further by having the tread knobs shaved off with a lathe.

“It’s a tactic commonly used in the racing business to get smooth tires,” Malphrus said. “As a result, we get long-lasting performance and no ground disturbance.”

But despite using a tire with an ultra smooth surface, Malphrus gets the traction it needs when conditions are less than ideal with Volvo L35B’s operator selectable 100 percent differential lock fitted to the front and real axle.

According to Volvo Compact Equipment Product Specialist John Comrie, it’s no small wonder that Malphrus looks to the Volvo compact EC55B and L35B to get the job done.

“Unlike some other compact machines on the market, particularly excavators, the Volvo EC55B is built with the technology of our full-size excavators. It’s basically a big excavator shrunk down to under 11,000 pounds, giving you the power, dig depth and breakout force of the big machines without the size, weight and site disturbance. It fulfills all the requirements the guys at Malphrus Golf need,” he said.

The Model EC55B, and the L35B compact wheel loader, feature standard air conditioning, heat and a radio to make the long days on the open fairway a bit easier.

“When you’re building golf courses for eight to ten hours a day like these guys, a roomy cab with some extra features goes a long way toward increased production,” said Comrie.

And on golf courses featuring lush green grass, ornate flowers, manicured trees and bubbling streams, the last thing you want is added pollution.

“Environmental concerns are one of Volvo’s core values,” said Comrie. “The Volvo EC55B and L35B both meet Tier II environmental standards, so you can do the job without doing a job on the environment.”

Both the Model EC55B excavator and the Model L35B compact wheel loader feature standard auxiliary hydraulics that provide increased flexibility and versatility using a hydraulic quick attachment bracket.

Malphrus Golf uses the attachment bracket on all the Model L35Bs to switch between various landscaping and ditching buckets and pallet forks. The L35B’s single center point articulation/oscillation joint allows the machine to travel over the roughest ground without throwing the operator or the pallet of sod around.

The Malphrus Model EC55B excavators use three bucket types — an 8 in. narrow for drainage and irrigation line digging, an 18 in. medium-sized bucket and a 30 in. bucket with a welded on smooth edge for finishing sand bunkers.

“The quick attachment couplers save our guys a lot of time,” explained Malphrus. “We bring three bucket styles to every job and have an attachment bracket on every machine so we can switch out quickly.”

Malphrus Construction Company has been a family operated business since J. Todd’s grandfather Orland J. Malphrus founded the company in 1939.

Today, Malphrus Construction Company has grown to 575 employees, 125 of which are in the golf division. Jobs are tackled in every phase of construction, on the golf course and beyond, including Department of Transportation work, municipal, commercial and residential.

“From pushing down the first tree to finishing the paving, we do it all,” Malphrus said.

In addition to the Model EC55B and Model L35B, Volvo Construction Equipment is a big part of the Malphrus operation. Malphrus estimates Volvo machines make up approximately 35 to 40 percent of the 300 pieces of heavy equipment they run.

“We use the compact wheel loaders for loading sand and rock all over the golf courses, toting drainage pipe and carrying pallets of sod,” said Malphrus.

“Company-wide we use 12 Volvo EC360s, what we call our ’bread and butter excavators, ’for digging lakes, loading trucks and trenching pipes over 24 inches wide. These machines always get the job done for us.” Malphrus also runs several Volvo EC460 excavators, numerous Volvo wheel loaders of various sizes, 10 Volvo articulated haulers and more.

The company also has recently placed an order for four additional Volvo EC330 excavators.

“Years ago we started with our Georgia Volvo dealer, and over the years we just built up a really good relationship,” Malphrus said. “When LB Smith took over a few years back, we didn’t skip a beat.