Most of us are already aware that there are many examples of artificial putting greens around the country that have been used by professional and social golfers for practice. It has been generally acknowledged that these artificial surfaces have been valuable training aids because the grass is very similar to real grass putting greens. Now there are studies being conducted to take the artificial grass a step further and onto the golf course itself.
Golf is a popular sport the world over although over 50% of the world’s golfing participants come from North America. It is a traditional sport that has always been played on a natural grass surface, but the way in which golf courses are managed and the amount of water and chemicals used to keep the grass looking lush and green has meant that they have come under attack from conservationists and environmentalists. The high maintenance costs and the onset of water restrictions in certain areas have meant that there has been quite a lot of interest in the introduction of synthetic grass golf courses.
The important factor that must be studied before artificial grass on golf courses becomes a reality is the behaviour of the grass compared to natural grass. That doesn’t mean whether the grass looks like grass but how the grass interacts with golf equipment such as the golf clubs and golf balls.
Factors that have been tested to compare the mechanical properties between natural grass and artificial turf have been the rotational resistance, divot hole strength, green speed, distance after bounce and angled ball rebound. The idea is that in each case the expectation is that artificial grass must react in the same ways as you would expect natural grass to react under perfect conditions.
The perfect condition requisite is quite important because the reality is it is quite difficult to keep natural grass at its peak condition. Or at the very least, it takes a lot of work to keep natural grass at its peak condition not to mention quite a lot of water.
It has also been identified that there are three main areas to a golf course: the tee, the fairway and the green. In each of these areas the type of grass and the length of the grass blades would be required to be different in terms of height and thickness. A type of synthetic grass that would be suitable for the tee is different to the synthetic grass needed for the green, just as it is with natural grass. The studies that have been conducted have had to determine factors such as the optimum grass height, the best grass density, suitable drainage rate and, for the fairways and greens, the correct ball roll after it bounces.
As of right now the initial studies have been done and it is now possible to determine what type of artificial grass will be most suitable for each part of a golf course. There is no doubt that synthetic grass for golf courses is a realistic chance of becoming a reality, it will depend on how the players themselves come to accept it. Factors such as player comfort and the ever present question over how hot the course would get when the sun hits the artificial turf are still big factors that must be taken into account.
Although maintenance costs and requirements are greatly reduced through the use of artificial grass there will still be a requirement to perform some minor tasks such as brushing the grass fibers and checking for the presence of moss growing on the green.
For more information about specific types of artificial golf grass take a look at our spotlight page where we take a closer look at ProGreen.