R&A Investigate Sustainable Golf Courses

The R&A Golf Course Committee is funding two projects that are looking into different aspects of sustainable course management.

The first is investigating the firmness of putting surfaces and fairways. Using the Turf Thumper, a device developed by the USGA, at six courses in the U.K., the intention is to produce guidelines on the acceptable ranges of firmness for links, heathland and parkland courses. The participating clubs are Royal Troon and Renfrew in Scotland, Conwy (Caernarvonshire) in Wales, Trentham, Ganton and Alwoodley in England.

The Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) is managing the project and will report the outcome in fall 2007. The firmness of a green is one of the most important characteristics contributing to turf health, green speed and trueness.

The other project will be monitored over four years and will consider the process of developing firmer, leaner greens and, thereby, improving their composition. In the U.K., soft, thatchy putting surfaces tend to be dominated by annual meadow-grass, the grass found on golf turf most susceptible to common and disfiguring turf diseases and climatic stresses.

Five clubs in England (Cold Ashby, Farnham Park, Knowle, Leek and Wilmslow) have been selected to take part in the project, all having addressed thatch issues (if they were present) and in an appropriate condition to promote the more desirable turfgrasses, i.e. the fine fescues and browntop bent. STRI will assess the species composition of selected greens at each of these courses at the start of the project and at the end of a three-year program of maintenance that will include overseeding with fescue and browntop bent.

These projects will hopefully provide technical support to those managing golf courses and it is intended that, on completion of the research, the results will be written up and posted on The R&A Best Practice website, www.bestcourseforgolf.org.