Innovation Spotlight: Width and Wings

The wider the mower, the more grass you can cut at one time. Simple concept, right? But what about following contours, maneuvering around obstacles or navigating through narrow spaces?

Toro has been delivering answers to that question to help make golf course crews more productive for nearly 100 years. Here’s a look at some of Toro’s early designs that offered wider cutting swaths and/or the ability to raise individual cutting units for added flexibility.

1919: Toro Introduces Cutting Swath Over 11 Feet (3.4 m) Wide
Toro actually started its golf mowing business in 1919 with the Toro Standard Golf Machine, which could cut a swath of 140 inches (355 cm) or 11.6 feet (3.5 m) wide. The product consisted of five 30-inch cutting units mounted in metal frames out in front of a Toro tractor.

Customer Wm. F. Brooks, chairman of the grounds committee at the Minikahda Club in Minneapolis, Minn., praised the productivity of a prototype of this machine in a letter to Toro in 1920. “The expense of the daily operation of the machine is practically the same for a team of horses and teamster, but as the machine will cut at least 33-1/3 percent more grass than when drawn by horses, the expense is reduced accordingly,” Brooks wrote. “We are able to cut our 18-hole course, 6,400 yards (5,852 m) long, in 18 hours.”

The letter also describes benefits that are still important today, from being able to climb hills and turn tight circles to having a lighter weight that doesn’t compress the soil.

1921: First Flexible Frame Fairway Mower Design
Soon after, Toro introduced the first flexible frame fairway mower in 1921. Designed by Toro co-founder and first president, John Samuel (Sam) Clapper, it was the first example of cutting units that could be lifted independently. The outer lengths of the frame flexed in response to undulations in the slope of the turf and could be raised for transport between cutting jobs or to maneuver in tight spaces.

An advertisement from the time stated that the machine “hugs the most uneven ground like a tailored glove. Bunker sides, hollows, angles up or down to 30 degrees — all get the same, even clip.” It also touted outer cutting units that could be raised to “work between trees, pass through narrow gates, and take up less room in storage.”

1940: First Toro Mower With Advertised “Wings”
Although the flexible frame fairway mower was configured in a bat-wing design, Toro didn’t refer to a product with wings directly until 1940.

The Toro 76 Professional featured hinged reels that could hug contours. It was promoted as “The Power Mower with Wings.” An ad from the time stated it could not only trim around a half-dollar, but also chew through a 6-foot (1.8 m) swath of grass, turning “20 acres of shaggy sod into a crisp green carpet” in a single day.

The Toro Professional remained in the Toro line into the mid-1970s, becoming a Toro and golf industry mainstay for over three decades.

Today: Innovation for Productivity
Since the Toro Professional, Toro has evolved mowing technology even further by building on the wide cutting swath and “wing” deck design. Today, Toro offers three large-area mowers that take advantage of this technology: the Groundsmaster® 5900 Series, Groundsmaster 4000 Series and Groundsmaster 4700 Contour mowers. Each of these “winged” machines provides the operator with the flexibility to mow with one wing, two wings or all of the decks engaged, allowing for precise trimming and easy transport with the wings in the upright position.

The Groundsmaster 5900 Series rough mowers offers the largest gain in productivity, boasting an impressive 16 ft (5 m) width of cut and allowing a single operator to mow over 17 acres/hour (6.87 hectares/hour). The nimble Groundsmaster 4000 Series has a maximum cutting width of 11 ft (3.3m) but can trim down to just 62 inches (1.6 m) with the front deck engaged for more precise applications. Finally, the Groundsmaster 4700, with its Contour™ Plus decks, is engineered to hug the many undulations of a course’s rough without scalping or leaving any area uncut. The capability to mow 8.9 acres/hour (3.6 hectares/hour) makes the 4700 an extremely efficient and productive mower as well.

Toro’s innovation for productivity continues in every product we make for the golf industry. The “bat wing“ design is just one of many advances Toro brings to courses around the world. See what our full line can do for you today at