The true cost of cutting costs?

The true cost of cutting costs?: When a machine is operating at optimum performance and being utilised in the correct conditions, professional groundskeepers or operators can expect to see healthy and pristine looking turf. But performance could be hampered if a mower isn’t properly maintained and that includes the choice of replacement parts.

Currently, we’re in the thick of the core mowing season, and it’s likely that replacement parts will be required to maintain that optimum experience and result.

The true cost of cutting costs?

The true cost of cutting costs?

Here, Franck Pillittieri at The Toro Company, shares some reasons why it’s essential to consider true lifetime value and not just a low price point when it comes to purchasing replacement parts.

“We know that for many in our industry, as in many others, there is a need to try and reduce cost when it comes to maintenance work on equipment. In the current climate especially there is likely to be more pressure than ever to cut costs in the short term – but what is the true cost when the price is lower?

“As a premium manufacturer, our parts are not the lowest price on the market. We offer our customers the Toro Genuine Parts solution for a Genuine performance. Below are the top reasons we recommend buying discerningly when replacing parts in your mower.”

Quality fit

Our Toro Genuine Parts are custom designed for each machine, so when one needs replacing it makes sense to fit a like for like piece. Cost demands though, could lead people to consider a cheaper alternative. However, not only could the lower cost part not fit correctly, but it could also compromise the machine going forward, increasing wear and general run down of the machine.


Whilst a cheaper price may seem like a great saving at the time, it is likely to prove a false economy in the long run if the part isn’t built to last. Not only may you have to incur the expense of replacing non-genuine parts more often, you also may experience longer downtime for your machine, impacting your productivity.


With any replacement product that is not designed for the machine there is a risk to the safety of the user and the lifetime of the machine. Often, cheaper replacement parts come from manufacturers who focus more on cost than safety. We, at The Toro Company, place the safety of the users and the performance of the machine at the top of our priorities.

Machine damage

When parts are purchased from a Toro-approved channel partner, the consumer can trust that the channel partner is committed to the care of the machine. We cannot expect this to be true for unrelated suppliers that may offer the cheapest parts on the market. Cheap parts could damage to the machine, resulting in a cost that could counteract any potential savings. Downtime for repairs can also result in lost income. For example, belts and filters go into the core of the equipment, and there is a risk of causing a break down or technical issue by using non-genuine parts.

Time efficiency

If certain parts of the mower are replaced with non-genuine replacements there is a possible impact on the time it takes to complete a job. For example, all Toro blades are engineered for our specific machines to increase efficiency. A replacement blade could be less effective and require more frequent cutting, again incurring more overall costs and decreasing efficiency.

Poor results

There is also the possibility with cheaper parts that you could achieve a poorer cut with your mower. When using cheaper tines, for example, you may damage the turf and have a reduced result.

“At The Toro Company, we offer a high-standard after-service experience in collaboration with our channel partners. This includes 24-48 hour delivery, meaning less downtime for your machine, knowledgeable service technicians if you need help installing parts or require information on your mower, a 90-day warranty for peace of mind, and a guarantee that we are investing in innovation to benefit customers now and in the future.

“So, whilst we appreciate the current situation that many of our customers are in, we encourage everyone to consider the longer-term view for the best outcome for their machines.”

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Otterbine diffuses the situation

Otterbine diffuses the situation: May was the sunniest calendar month on record and with the way things are going it may well not hold that title for long! So, this year more than any other year, water management specialist Otterbine is advising greenkeepers to be pre-emptive to the challenges hot weather can throw at lakes and ponds.

Water left unattended for long periods of time can very quickly deteriorate, especially as the weather warms up and as it’s predicted this summer will be a hot one – some say reminiscent to that of 2018 – it cannot be underestimated how important it will be to manage water quality.

Otterbine diffuses the situation

Otterbine diffuses the situation

Warm water, plentiful sunlight and an excess of nutrients is a combination that, without a proper water management system in place, can leave lakes and ponds with problems such as algae, aquatic weeds and odours.

Simon Powell, Otterbine business development manager at distributor Reesink Turfcare, explains why it’s vital to implement preventative measures now, he says: “Oxygen depletion or stress situations occur for different reasons, but many lake management issues are related to both the light and heat generated by the summer sun. We understand that for some, water management may not be top of the to-do priority list, but it really does pay dividends to act now before the problems take hold.

“Once a lake has lost its ecological balance and goes into crisis, the costs of restoring the lake increase dramatically. As well as often being more expensive to implement, reactive solutions tend to be less friendly to the environment too.”

Low oxygen levels, combined with minimal circulation, prematurely ages water and throws the natural ecosystem out of balance. Only then do symptoms of poor water quality begin to appear, which as well as algae, weeds and odours, include sludge build up and aquatic life struggles or is killed off.

Simon says: “By increasing oxygen levels and circulating oxygen rich water throughout a lake, water quality can remain high, inhibiting algae, aquatic weeds and unpleasant odours. The most natural water quality management solution is to introduce aeration into a pond or lake to eliminate stagnant water. That’s where Otterbine’s aeration systems can help.”

With Otterbine’s aerating fountains, industrial aerators and diffused air systems and their proven high oxygen transfer rates, you can easily increase the dissolved oxygen levels in your lake or pond, preventing or curing stagnant water, algae build up and bad smells for clean, clear, healthy water. And with Otterbine’s decorative range you can make your lake or pond an appealing beauty spot at the same time.

For more information on Otterbine aerators, contact distributor

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Leatherjackets target for new Acelepryn Emergency Authorisation

Leatherjackets target for new Acelepryn Emergency Authorisation: A further new Emergency Authorisation (EA) for the use of the Syngenta insecticide, Acelepryn, has been reapproved to target leatherjackets for the 2020 season.

The new leatherjacket specific authorisation supplements the summer chafer grub EA announced in May.

Leatherjackets target for new Acelepryn Emergency Authorisation

Leatherjackets target for new Acelepryn Emergency Authorisation

“Two individual EA’s allow a longer window of application to target the specific pests at the most appropriate timing for each- which coincide with the pests’ egg hatch and initial larval activity,” according to ICL Technical Manager, Henry Bechelet, who applied for the Emergency Authorisation on behalf of the industry.

The EA permits use of Acelepryn on affected greens, tees and fairways, along with horse race courses and airfields. The treatment period for leatherjackets is up until 31 October 2020.

Leatherjackets cause damage to turf through feeding on roots and leaves – typically resulting in pock-marked and uneven surfaces, which can be severe in localised patches, he pointed out. Racecourses and horse gallops are especially prone to surface instability where root damage is caused by soil pests.

Furthermore, extensive damage can occur in all turf surfaces when badgers, birds and other foragers root through turf in search of leatherjackets. Flocks of birds attracted to feed on larvae are of particular concern on airfields.

Leatherjackets are the larvae of crane fly (daddy longs legs). Adults typically emerge in late July to the end of September, although hatching may be further extended into the autumn depending on weather conditions. Crane fly start to lay eggs almost immediately, depositing up to 400 eggs each in 80-100 batches.

The eggs hatch after approximately 14 days, when larvae start to feed on organic matter and roots, along with leaves on the surface around their holes. Optimum results have been seen from application targeted during peak egg laying, to target larvae soon after egg hatch.

“The extension of use to the 31 October could prove extremely useful to target later emerging leatherjackets. However, all orders must be received by ICL by 27 October, to enable necessary stewardship records and delivery,” added Mr Bechelet.

The Emergency Authorisation permits Acelepryn use in situations where there is an acknowledged instance of economic damage, or risk of bird strike on airfields, and where the product has been recommended by a BASIS qualified agronomist.

This season, for the first time, Acelepryn users will be able to submit online stewardship records of areas treated, via the ICL website:

Syngenta Technical Manager, Glenn Kirby, advised the best results have been achieved with applications when young leatherjackets, at the 1st and 2nd instar stages, are actively feeding near the soil surface.

“It’s important to apply at higher water volumes, using the white O8 XC Nozzle to target the spray through to the soil surface,” he advised. “Irrigation will help to move the spray into the target zone.”

The authorised label permits application at the rate of 0.6 litres per hectare, applied in 500-1000 l/ha water. Only one application per year is permitted on any given area.

Greenkeepers and turf managers are urged to report sightings of crane fly activity through the on-line Pest Tracker. The aim is to build a picture of pest activity across the UK and Ireland, to anticipate issues and aid application timing. Further information and pest identification guide is available on the Syngenta GreenCast website.

For further information on best use guidelines where chafer grubs and leatherjackets have caused economically damaging effects contact an ICL Area Manager or BASIS agronomist:

ICL Area Managers for Acelepryn enquiries:

Jamie Lees

07500 992464


Craig Lalley

07824 528252


Emma Kilby

07748 111965

South East/East London

Andrew Pledger

07387 056659

South/London/Channel Islands

Darren Hatcher


07787 697684

South West/West London

Nick Martin

07900 666691

North West

Phil Collinson

07824 473699


Matt Nutter

07810 656240


Alternatively contact Syngenta UK Technical Manager:
Glenn Kirby

07483 333964

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AEA formally appoint new president

AEA formally appoint new president: Mr Malin is Managing Director of Etesia UK and has been an active member of the AEA for over 14 years.

As President of the AEA Les’ role will be to lead the Board of Directors, while the farm equipment and outdoor power equipment councils and various technical and specialist groups focus on current issues and initiatives.

AEA formally appoint new president

AEA formally appoint new president

He speaks of the unusual circumstances of his appointment and the way forward for the Agriculture and Outdoor Power sectors.

Due to Covid-19 the 2020, the AEA Annual General Meeting was postponed, leading the Association to take the unprecedented step to nominate Mr Les Malin as its President-Elect. Now, however, and following recently introduced changes in legislation, Mr Malin’s role as President of the AEA has been formalised, as the AGM was allowed to be held virtually, with some 30 participants in attendance, as well as the company legal advisors to ensure all was legally binding.

Mr Malin commented on the alternative course of action, “First of all, I would like to thank the AEA Board of Directors for nominating me to be the next President of the AEA. It is, indeed, against a backdrop of very uncertain and difficult times. With COVID 19 now having taken over from Brexit as the focus of everyone in the UK, the work of the AEA has had to adapt like many other businesses and groups.”

Ruth Bailey, CEO and Director General of the AEA said, “It is indeed very strange times. We are delighted, however, to have Les as our President and welcome his knowledge and experience within the industry to guide us through.”

Les’ early background is rooted in agriculture, where in his early years he worked on a mixed farm and would also use the farm equipment for contracting jobs.  He then started his own contracting business in his 20’s.  In the mid 1990’s he made his move to outdoor power equipment as area manager for Polaris, after which he worked at Amazone Groundcare before finally moving to Estesia as an ASM, then General Manager and finally Managing Director.

Les has many years of experience both within agriculture and the outdoor power equipment sector and said of the future “This virus has shown us more than ever that Technology has to be the key forward for all of us, we have to embrace the  future forget the past and show our customers that we can offer expertise, money saving machinery, environmentally efficient solutions such as robotics in agricultural or the outdoor sectors. We as an industry must embrace these modern methods to safeguard our futures and entice the younger generation into a sector of employment that few people leave if they actively engage in its culture and history”

Mr Malin is due to receive his official chain of office in more certain and safe times but so he knows what to look forward to, we have mocked up his official image.

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GGM Group step out for charity

GGM Group step out for charity: A Lancashire business has demonstrated that it will always go the extra mile for charity -even when faced with a global pandemic and tough weather conditions.

This weekend, staff from the Colne-based GGM Group completed their annual fundraising walk with a difference – taking on a specifically adapted route to adhere to social distancing guidelines, while raising over £3000 for three worthy causes – Greenfingers, St John’s Hospice and Pendlebury Hospice.

GGM Group step out for charity

GGM Group step out for charity

Managing Director Chris Gibson and his team travelled from his home-town of Lancaster to the businesses’ head office in Colne and then back again, covering a distance of approximately 100 miles – through a combination of cycling and walking. The walking element, which covered over 80,000 steps,  covered the Lancashire Witches Walk which passes through the Forest of Pendle and the Forest of Bowland to finish at Lancaster Castle. Travelling through blistering temperatures and torrential rain, the team completed their walk on Saturday afternoon, arriving at St John’s Hospice, Lancaster to a hero’s welcome and a well-deserved afternoon tea with a well-earned beer and fizz.

The team had planned to climb the three highest peaks in England as part of the company’s annual charity walking event, and were disappointed to be unable to go ahead as planned. Undeterred, Chris came up with his own ingenious solution.

He explains more:

“Last year the GGM team completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks in aid of our company charity, Greenfingers, and we were looking forward to this year’s event.

“As part of the Government’s initiative to get us back to work via walking or cycling, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to continue our fundraising. I chose this route because it was created to mark the 400th anniversary of the trail of the “Lancashire Witches” held at Lancaster Castle and  I wanted to recognise the injustice and prejudice of the past and the need continue to fight to remove these from society today.  We were able to include several of our team and their families in our efforts, with people undertaking different legs in pairs, to enable social distancing.

The event raised money for charities who are finding themselves cash-strapped during these difficult times. Greenfingers is the company charity for the second year running, dedicated to supporting children who spend time in hospices around the UK, along with their families, by creating inspiring gardens for them to relax in. In addition, funds will also be raised for St John’s Hospice in Lancaster which provides free palliative care to patients with life shortening conditions across North Lancashire, South Lakes and parts of North Yorkshire and Pendleside Hospice in Burnley, which exists to promote and enhance quality of life for people with life-limiting illnesses.

The GGM Group consists of two businesses across two depots. PSD Groundscare is the national distributor of specialist landscaping equipment, including AS Motor and Eliet, Koppl and TS Industrie. GGM Groundscare is a specialist supplier of tractors and high-quality professional land-based equipment for commercial and domestic use. Servicing the North West and Yorkshire, it supplies a range of products from leading franchises including Kubota, Baroness and Amazone.

Chris Gibson concluded:

“I am hugely proud of what our staff have achieved this weekend. It was teamwork in the truest sense, and we all worked hard to make the event work while adhering to social distancing. The youngest participants were just seven years old and as a family business, and it was fantastic for us all to come together.

We’d like to extend our thanks to Chorley Nissan who loaned us a support vehicle and Lisa and the team at St John’s Hospice who waved us off and then welcomed us back with refreshments.

“It’s a key part of our ethos at The GGM Group to give something back to the local community  so for this event we’ve decided to support  both St John’s Hospice in Lancaster and Pendleside Hospice in Burnley, as local charities who are desperately in need of funds at this time alongside Greenfingers our nominated company charity.

The GGM Group set a target of £1000 for the event which it has already smashed, with a current total of over £3000. You can support this worthy cause by donating at

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Don’t hit your ball towards greenkeepers

Don’t hit your ball towards greenkeepers: After a course manager suffered a nasty head injury when struck by a ball, BIGGA explain their members often find themselves in the firing line.

The golf course is perhaps unique in sport as greenkeepers can often be seen carrying out work while the course is in play.

Don't hit your ball towards greenkeepers

Don’t hit your ball towards greenkeepers

It’d be a little odd if a groundsman was marking out a penalty area on a football pitch or the boundaries of a tennis court while a match was in play. But with tee sheets filled to the brim and greenkeepers having a massive area to maintain, it’s inevitable that eventually the greenkeeper and the golfer will come into contact – often with dangerous consequences.

Portlethen Golf Club’s course manager, Neil Sadler, shared a gruesome image of himself after he was struck on the head by an errant golf ball at the weekend, which left him hospitalised and with a concussion…

The damage caused by a golf ball hitting you on the head is about a tenth of a head-on collision in a car crash and of the 12,000 golf-related injuries recorded each year in the UK, around 3,500 are head injuries caused by a golf ball.

The R&A’s Rules of Golf attempt to mitigate the potential dangers to both greenkeepers and other players. Within the ‘Etiquette’ Behaviour on the Course section, it is explained how golfers should always wait until the way ahead is clear before playing a shot. This applies to whether the person ahead is a greenkeeper going about his duties, another golfer or a member of the public.

Golfers have a duty of care not to put others at risk as result of their actions. Sadly, all too often greenkeepers find themselves in the firing line.

We got together three golf course managers to hear their thoughts on the matter and to discuss who should have priority out on the course – the greenkeeping team or the golfer?

Chris Sheehan (left) is a former BIGGA president and head greenkeeper at West Derby Golf Club for over 30 years. James Parker (centre) was course manager at Pannal Golf Club in Harrogate and is now at Longniddry Golf Club near Edinburgh. Jack Hetherington is course manager at Boldon Golf Club in the North East after a spell as head greenkeeper at Alnwick Golf Club.

Here’s what they told us:

Chris Sheehan (head greenkeeper, West Derby): “Most golf clubs that I know, if not all of them, have a policy where the greens staff have priority at all times. But, despite this, greenkeepers sometimes find themselves in the firing line. This is the worst scenario and it not only hurts them from a mental point of view, but it also hurts them if the golf ball hits them. There have been many instances of balls hitting greenkeepers and causing serious injury. It has happened to me and when you go up to the golfer and say ‘did you not see me?’ They say ‘oh no, I didn’t’ or ‘I didn’t think I’d hit it that far’. When you are on a machine, you can’t hear them shouting ‘fore’. As far as I am concerned, don’t play while the greenkeeper is on the green.”

Jack Hetherington (course manager, Boldon): “Greenkeepers should have priority at all times. It’s easier for me to educate my three members of staff than it is to educate all of my members and say ‘right, you must give way at this time, but at this time we’ll give way’. It’s easier for golfers to give way at all times and for me to educate my staff on when it’s acceptable to make them wait and when it is not.

James Parker (head greenkeeper, Longniddry): “If you’ve got somebody cutting a green then golfers should wait. Conversely, if the greenkeeper feels the task is going to take too long and hold up play, then by all means move to the side and let people play through. The difficulty is that the more we squeeze our tee sheets, which every club is doing now as we want to cram in as much golf as we can, then the fourball who are stood in the middle of the fairway feel under the same pressure as the greenkeeper on the green. They’ve got people on the tee behind them wanting to play. But as long as the member and the greenkeeper can work together, I don’t really see that it should be a huge issue.

Chris: “I spoke to had a health and safety expert in and he said ‘I think all the greens staff should wear a helmet and hi-vis jackets when they work on the golf course, so the golfers can see them and they know it’s a member of the greens staff’. I said ‘don’t you think the same applies to visitors or any member?’ We’re all people out there and if that isn’t enough to stop people hit golf balls towards you, I’m not sure what will.”

James: “I spoke to a health and safety advisor who said completely the opposite. I mentioned about bump caps and hi-vis – I’m firmly against it – and he said he thinks it makes golfers more last if you give them bump caps and hi-vis and the beauty of not wearing them is that golfers should be on the lookout for greenkeepers. Safety gear doesn’t stop golfers from hitting their ball, because they just say ‘he’s got a bump cap on. I’m going to hit it anyway, he’ll be fine’.”

Chris: “You can literally kill somebody with a golf ball. There have been serious injuries that have been caused and our fear is that it won’t be long before somebody gets killed.”

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Maintaining a golf course alone

Maintaining a golf course alone: Meet the head greenkeeper who took on lockdown single-handedly and was overcome by the community at his club.

Ian Pemberton always joked his course at Cleveland Golf Club would be brilliant if golfers weren’t on it. Then they were gone – for nearly two months.

Maintaining a golf course alone

Maintaining a golf course alone

He was alone, his entire staff furloughed, with a sweeping 18-hole links to manage as coronavirus shut the country as well as the club.

‘Pembo’, as everyone at the club knows him, is part of the furniture. He’s been in the trade for nearly four decades and head greenkeeper at the Redcar course for just over 13 years.

You could say he’s seen a lot. But he’s never experienced anything like the pandemic that gripped the town.

“It was horrible,” he said. “It was a testing time. It was a character building time and it was a learning curve.”

When a pipe burst, he had to be on it. Whether it was tees, fairways or greens, he was the only one on a mower.

Pemberton’s never regarded greenkeeping as anything other than a vocation – “it’s not a 9 to 5 job” – but he knew the only way to get through what essential maintenance actually meant was with detailed planning.

Well, that and an April drought.

“I put together an Excel sheet and programmed timings for when something desperately needed cutting. The greens were every three days and the fairways didn’t take much because it was that dry.

“(Without that) I don’t think I would have coped. I would have had to get the lads back in.”

When he needed it most, in those moments when everything threatened to get overwhelming, there was assistance from volunteers who gave him more of a fillip than they could have known.

“They were tremendous. They need a huge ovation from the rest of the membership. They were limited in what they could do, because they couldn’t jump on machines.

“They were divoting and getting to areas I couldn’t. There were always offers of help and that’s what I needed at that time.”

And even though he’s coming through a torrid experience, as we all have in our own ways, Pemberton has found positives among the hardship.

He’s always had a love-in with the members – anyone who’s ever had a round at the course is bewitched by his infectious enthusiasm and easy way of going about his work.

But even he admitted to getting a little emotional when golfers returned to the course and showered him with praise for its condition.

“It was wonderful. I’d be in the shed and three or four members came in with crates of lager. One brought me some Corona. How good is that? There’s a little bit of Corona for you.

“I love it here. The course is my back garden. It’s just that my back garden got bigger overnight for six or seven weeks.”

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La Grande Mare gets relief with Foley

La Grande Mare gets relief with Foley: For La Grande Mare course manager, Rick Hamilton, relief grinding is what it’s all about when it comes to reel maintenance, so when he had his pick of grinders, he opted for the Foley Company Accu-Pro 633 with Accu-Touch 3 Control (ATC).

Rick first used a Foley grinder 30-years ago while working in Asia, and over the three decades that followed has used several manufacturers while a consultant. However, he has remained impressed by the principles Foley has stuck to and how they have developed their machines to make them user friendly and deliver consistent results.

La Grande Mare gets relief with Foley

La Grande Mare gets relief with Foley

“The main reason I stayed with Foley was to do with the principles of relief grinding. They have such excellent relief grinders, and although other manufacturers have good machines, but they don’t relief grind at the same level, and for me, that’s what it is all about,” he explained. Foley has always kept to the principles of that, and it’s something I believe is essential in maintaining a good quality reel and delivering and retaining the sharpest cut ; you have to relief grind.

“Because it’s an important part of maintaining the reel I wanted to make sure we could always grind when we needed to, and that’s what made the ATC so important. We don’t have a full-time mechanic, and I want all my guys to get involved. I’m a fully qualified engineer and greenkeeper, so I’ve done a lot of the maintenance work since I’ve joined here and I’m teaching the team. Having machines like this that are automated means once they’ve all been trained up, everything is programmed in and is easy for them to step in and grind.

“You get the same finish and quality every time because the machine is programmed to do that. The inputs are all the same, and the results will be the same, and we want consistency.”

The ATC system provides a step by step tutorial for new technicians, while more experienced operators can use the system straight away to tell the machine what they’re working on and it’ll do the rest. Automatic placement features, the Accu-Reel Selector and Cylinder Height Stop, automatically locate the reel for a fast and easy spin and relief grind in one set-up and work with the pre-set relief angles to provide hands-free relief grinding.

To get Rick and his team set up on the machine, Ian Robson from Foley Company’s UK distributor, ProSportUK Ltd, went to Guernsey to install the grinder and provide training for Rick’s team. Following the session, the entire team could use the grinder, with the results showing on the course.

La Grande Mare gets relief with Foley

La Grande Mare gets relief with Foley

“Ian from ProSportUK was amazing, the guy really knows his stuff, and the training was excellent,” Rick said. “My staff picked it up really quickly, and they were extremely impressed with the result, and they actually enjoyed grinding and doing the job, which is particularly important. Some guys who aren’t so mechanically inclined tend to shy away, and one of my guys who isn’t so mechanically minded found it very straight forward and easy to operate.

Now, they understand the machine, and they can see the result on the greens when they go out and see the mower cutting. Even to that point, when they came back in with the mower and re-checked the cut and reset all the settings, they couldn’t believe how good it was and how long the quality of the cut lasted.”

To experience the difference of the Accu-Pro 633 or other Foley Company models, contact ProSportUK Ltd at

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Time to do things differently?

Time to do things differently?: With the world’s oldest golf courses being almost exclusively links courses it is no coincidence that very sandy materials have traditionally been used for the construction and refurbishment of coastal and inland golf courses across the world. 

Sand provides a firm, level and well drained playing surface. Because it is inert it does not hold onto nutrients or water and this allows greenkeepers to manufacture the environment required through the addition of artificial fertiliser and the introduction of water through irrigation.

Time to do things differently?

Time to do things differently?

Notwithstanding the unprecedented, and unexpected, positive impact of the current pandemic on the global environment, our climate continues to change. For some time, scientists and consultants working in the industry have been looking at how golf course construction and refurbishment could be done differently in the future, using materials that are better suited to work with the vagaries of the climate, have a less detrimental impact on our environment, and reduce annual costs.

The use of soil and soil-based products to construct, refurbish and maintain tees, bunkers and green surrounds is proving increasingly popular with greenkeepers and golf course consultants who have been encouraged by STRI research, feedback from scientists, and industry case studies and testimonials.

A good soil is a mixture of mineral particles – sand, silt and clay – water, nutrients – predominantly nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium – organic matter, air and living organisms. ‘Virgin’ or ‘as dug’ natural topsoil as a construction material for shaping course features, tees, bunkers etc. is neither sustainable nor reliable.

Not only are the world’s soil resources being depleted at an alarming rate but virgin soil is also a ‘take it or leave it’ material that may lack the right balance of the constituents listed above, affecting its performance.

British Sugar Topsoil products are sustainable, being derived from the prime arable soils that adhere to the sugar beet brought in to British Sugar factories. The soil is washed from the beet and collected in settlement ponds before being conditioned and blended.

To comply with the British Standard for Topsoil BS3882:2015, each batch is sampled and sent to a UKAS and MCERTS accredited laboratory for a range of tests.

Topsoil products have also undergone comprehensive replicated trials at the STRI.

Good grass establishment and growth, particularly in periods of drought, and the recovery of the sward following periods of heavy rain, make soil-based materials for course construction and refurbishment a very attractive proposition.

The clay component in soil holds on to nutrients (N, P, K, Mg) and the microbes present in the organic matter make for a healthy soil, resulting in good grass establishment and growth and minimising the requirement for additional and expensive inorganic fertiliser. Soil also has a considerably slower percolation rate than sand and this increased waterholding capacity means that areas are less reliant on irrigation. And in terms of course design, soil’s plasticity allows the creation of more interesting and challenging contours and features.

With all that said, maintenance remains key to the successful use of soil products and, where used, the ground must still be aerated on a regular basis to prevent compaction and puddling.

Perhaps, in this period of unexpected lockdown, there is time to look at doing things differently, working with the natural world’s own resources in a sustainable, cost-efficient and environmentally beneficial way.

At Bury St Edmunds Golf Club Consultant Peter Jones, of Peter Jones Associates, selected British Sugar Topsoil’s Landscape20 topsoil for the re-shaping and re-contouring of the entire green complex. 120 tonnes were spread at a depth of 15-20cm over the course’s natural sandy loam soil, which had been de-compacted and levelled using a purpose-built rake.

Finally, a dwarf perennial rye grass turf was laid over the Landscape20. Throughout the entire operation the putting surface of each green was left intact.

Peter chose Landscape20 because of the success he had had with it on similar projects: “The properties of Landscape20 allow you to create the shapes needed around bunkers and greens, and the naturally occurring nutrients within it result in great turf growth.”

At Peterborough Milton Golf Course, 13 bunkers were re-shaped and five tees levelled with 174 tonnes of British Sugar TOPSOIL’s Sports&Turf topdressing prior to re-turfing. “Sports&Turf is by far the best product I have used in my years as a greenkeeper and I am delighted with how easy it is to use. The drainage and percolation rate it gives is second to none,” said Manager Steve Smail.

Dealing with global extremes

Dealing with global extremes: STRI’s head of sports surface technology, Dr Stephen Baker, considers the problems of turf management in some of the more extreme climates that he has visited in his 38-year career.

Working conditions

Grass selection and maintenance is very dependent on climate, and in many parts of the world there is not the relatively benign climate for turf grass growth that we experience in the United Kingdom.

Whilst there can be significant issues with snow and frost in the winter, average monthly temperatures in the UK typically range from around 0°C to 20°C and this is a relatively comfortable range for grass growth for most of the year.

Dealing with global extremes

Dealing with global extremes

Contrast this with some of the sixty countries that I have worked in. Parts of Russia or Scandinavia where the average minimum January temperature of -15°C to -20°C (and lows of -40°C) and average maximum monthly temperatures of 38°C to 43°C in India, Morocco and Saudi Arabia, with peak temperatures sometimes exceeding 50°C, made for some interesting working conditions.

Similarly, in the UK we have a relatively reliable rainfall and without the very high intensities experienced in some tropical areas.

Annual average rainfall in the UK typically ranges from around 700-1250mm per year for the more heavily populated parts of the country where most sports facilities are found.

In contrast annual rainfall can be as low as 100mm in Saudi Arabia. At the other extreme, average monthly totals can reach over 300mm in Manaus in the Amazon Basin in Brazil or in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and massive 840mm in Mumbai, India. It should be noted that these are just average values and at times the temperature range and rainfall differences can be much greater. It is inevitable that extreme variations in temperature and rainfall will increase the challenge of producing high quality sports surfaces.

Low temperatures

The map, above, shows the range of climates around the world from the perspective of turf management.

Each of the climate areas has a major influence on selection of the appropriate grass species in relation to the ideal temperature range. However, there is also a wide range of other issues such as drought and salinity tolerance, the sports to be played and the potential standard of maintenance, including irrigation demand.

Fortunately, a very wide range of grass species are available, and they can be split into two very different groups depending on their basic biology: the cool-season grasses and warm-season species. Cool-season grasses would include species such as smooth-stalked meadow-grass (Poa pratensis) and perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne), which are used on areas of more intensively used turf such as football or rugby pitches, and finer fescue (Festuca spp.) or bent species (Agrostis spp.) that may be suitable on areas such as golf courses.

For areas of extremely low temperatures it is inevitable that appropriate cool-season grasses will be used, but there are several aspects of management that may need to be considered:

• Minimum temperatures that are likely to be encountered
• The length of the growing season, in particular how much of the playing season coincides with periods of minimum growth
• Duration of snow cover and the need for snow removal. Snow cover is indeed often used as an insulating blanket to protect the turf during the coldest months of the year, but there can be significant challenges in clearing the snow and making the surface ready for the start of the new playing season
• The potential risks for disease, especially under snow cover or during periods of limited growth
• The opportunities for pitch renovation. In the more extreme climates for example of North America, Scandinavia and Russia the main playing season will coincide with spring, summer and early autumn when growing conditions are generally better. However, this may limit the amount of time available for renovation, as for example end-ofseason work would coincide with lower temperatures thus preventing effective grass establishment

As well as selection of suitable grass types there are several management options that may improve the standard of turf in very cold climates.

Undersoil heating and pitch covers are generally essential for the major stadiums in such climate areas and, as latitude and cloud cover have a major influence on light levels, most stadiums in these colder climates would also need supplementary lighting to extend the period of grass growth.

Maintaining a high standard of grass cover can also be a big issue in these colder climates. Annual meadow-grass (Poa annua) is very well adapted to the colder, wetter climates such as Iceland or the west coast of Norway.

Without the possibility of extensive end of season renovation there are only limited opportunities to establish preferred species, so annual meadowgrass tends to increase rapidly with time. To maintain a reasonable balance of grass species there is a need for regular over sowing throughout the summer months, with ideally a break in the middle of the playing season to allow a short renovation window.

High temperatures

High temperatures cannot be isolated from rainfall and there tends to be two main extremes where high temperature and rainfall interact: (1) high temperature but low rainfall in desert or semi-arid environments, (2) high temperature, high rainfall areas, although these can have a distinct wet season and a dry season which will have a major impact on turf management. For the monsoon season in Mumbai, India, the four months between June and September have a combined average of about 2250mm rainfall, while the four months from January to April have a combined rainfall of less than 5mm.

The main factor influencing grass quality in hot climates with either low annual rainfall or seasonal drought, will be water supply through irrigation and a good quality irrigation supply will be essential. For high standard stadiums water will generally be delivered using an appropriate pop-up irrigation system, but for more general, lower maintenance areas techniques such as subsurface irrigation may also have to be considered to improve water conservation.

Grass selection is normally based on warm-season species such as bermudagrass (Cynodon spp.), seashore paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum) or various Zoysia species, but there may be other considerations.

Dealing with global extremes

Dealing with global extremes

In the absence of cloud cover, nighttime temperatures in some desert climates can be very low giving a risk of dormancy of the warm-season grass. In some wetter tropical climates, particularly where there is significant photochemical air pollution in major urban areas, light levels might be insufficient to maintain healthy grass growth at certain times of the year, especially in stadium environments.

A further factor compounding issues of heat stress in many of the drier climates is the quality of the irrigation water and the potential build-up of salts in the soil. Assessment of water sources for irrigation becomes a major item in turf design in such areas and regular excess irrigation may be needed to flush accumulated salts out of the rootzone.

Very hot, wet areas also have some very specific challenges: these include high intensity rainfall (which I’ll discuss later) but also high rates of biologically activity and this can have particular challenges with disease, insect pests and weed invasion.

Management of the turf in the hottest parts of the world must consider all these issues. There are however some management techniques that can also restrict temperature stress, including:

• air circulation systems by which cooler area can be pushed from lower in the soil profile to cool the grass at the surface
• syringing with light applications of irrigation water to dissipate heat by evaporation
• shade covers mounted well above the grass surface to restrict the incoming solar radiation
• installing cooling pipes, reversing the principle of undersoil heating.

Transition zones

Some of the biggest challenges with grass selection occur in transition zones where there are extreme ranges of temperature. These include Mediterranean type climates in parts of Europe, South America, South Africa and Australia but also some of the continental extremes, where winter temperatures can be as low as -30°C, while summer temperatures may hit 35°C.

Under these circumstances a single grass type is very unlikely to be able to tolerate the annual temperature range: warm-season grasses will go brown and dormant in the winter and cool-season grasses are likely to be lost to heat stress and disease in the summer period.

Good management is obviously essential in such climates, but inevitably more than one grass species will be required, with the warm-season grass used in the summer and then being oversown with a cool-season grass to give the colour and performance required for the winter months.


It is impossible to provide a good quality turf surface without adequate irrigation and issues of turf management in hot, dry climates have already been discussed above. However, there are methods to improve the water retention properties of sports turf rootzones using various organic and inorganic amendments. The type and concentration of these amendments is critical – too little amendment and the surface may remain dry and hard. Excess amendment can lead to a soft playing surface, with shallow rooting that is easily damaged by play. Laboratory testing and a very good understanding of requirements for the growing medium is essential to help formulate the most suitable rootzone characteristics for a specific climate zone.

Very high rainfall is also an issue, as most sports surfaces rely on a relatively dry, stable surface for optimum playing conditions. Well-constructed rootzones, usually based on a high percentage of a suitably selected sand, are generally essential to give adequate drainage performance.

However even a well-constructed rootzone with a drainage rate of say 150mm/hr will not be able to cope with the most extreme rainfall events. In such circumstances it may be necessary to construct a turf facility with greater slopes to encourage surface runoff of water.

Dealing with global extremes

Dealing with global extremes

Technology can also help – many of the subsurface air circulation systems used for temperature control can be used to generate sufficient suction within the soil to help remove extreme rainfall from the surface.


Excess wind may sound more like a complaint of the digestive system than a problem faced by most sports turf managers, however there can be situations where high winds (or indeed a lack of air movement) can be a factor in sports turf management.

Aside from destructive events such as hurricanes, the most likely problems of high wind would be on exposed sites where irrigation can be affected.

If there are strong prevailing or drying winds, evaporation rates are likely to be higher and therefore water consumption greater. However, it is the effects on water distribution that may be the greatest challenge, as the effect on the uniformity of water application can be significant.

This may necessitate changes in the basic design of the irrigation system with for example changes in the specification for the pop-up heads or sprinklers at closer spacings than on a less exposed site. It will also increase the need for careful monitoring to ensure that there are no dry areas that are being missed and for selective hand watering to supplement moisture levels on any drier areas.

Lack of significant air movement should also not be under-estimated. In modern stadium environments the surrounding stands may restrict air movement to the extent that drying of the surface is compromised and the risk of disease and surface algae may increase.

Where there is temperature stress this can be even more important, for example with cool-season grasses growing at times of elevated summer temperatures. Under these circumstances the use of fans around the pitch to help air movement can be a very important factor in reducing turf stress and sustaining a high-quality playing surface.

Modern sports turf management

In the last 40 years the range of available technology has expanded to an unbelievable extent. The understanding of turf construction and management principles has improved, by both technological innovation and research investment. More marginal climates that gave high levels of stress affecting grass development can now have much better-quality turf surfaces, provided that development projects are well designed and constructed and that there are sufficient levels of resources to deal with these climate extremes.