Sports Turf Management

Study sports turf management and green keeping online. Explore different techniques for managing sports turf grasses such as drainage, cultivation, mowing, weeding & feeding of refined turf. Learn to plan a sports turf maintenance program.

Course Code: BHT202
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Understand the Nuts & Bolts of Green Keeping

Sports turf must be more durable than lawns and ornamental grass surfaces. It is exposed to play and can be damaged. The amount of damage a sports turf suffers will depend upon the amount of use it gets, the type of games which are being played on it, weather conditions (e.g. it is more likely to be damaged in very wet weather), construction factors (e.g. soil type, drainage, and so on), the type of turf cultivars growing in the turf, the health of the turf, and the level of care and maintenance.

Discover how to care for different types of sports grasses

Through studying this course you will learn a range of techniques for managing sports turf grasses on different types of sportsgrounds. Learn about how different surfaces are prepared for play, how to fertilise, water and cultivate sports surfaces. See what equipment is needed and how it is used. Find out how to choose appropriate grasses for sportsgrounds and ways to maintain them and limit sports related damage. Devise a maintenance program for a sports facility.

  • Gain specialised turf care knowledge
  • Increase the scope of your business
  • Learn maintenance, greens, sports grounds and cultivation techniques

This course assumes a basic knowledge of turf care, either through experience or prior study (eg. Our Turf Care course) From there it develops your ability to manage the maintenance of sports turf. It is relevant to the maintenance of all sports turf including golf courses, bowling clubs, playing fields, cricket wickets and other sporting facilities.

This is a must do course for those currently working in the turf care industry or who are looking to enter it. Students will not only cover the basics in terms of drainage, cultivation, mowing, weeding, and feeding of refined turf, but will also explore appropriate techniques for managing different types of sports turfs.” - Gavin Cole B.Sc., Psych.Cert., Cert.Garden Design, MACA, ACS Tutor.

ACS Student Comment: Yes [the course was valuable]. I have been out of the green keeping industry for some time and the course was a good way to refresh my knowledge and also improve it, with new information. There was no pressure time wise and I received good support and encouragement from my tutor. Darrell Murdoch, Sport Turf Management course.


Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Turf Variety Selection
    • Introduction
    • Turf Varieties in Parks
    • Sowing
    • Feature Lawns
    • Picnic Areas
    • Sports Grounds
    • Gardens
    • Parks
    • Turf Species; bent, fescue, rye, kentucky, couch, etc
    • Turf Cultivar Selection Criteria
    • Mixing Varieties
  2. Mowing
    • Introduction
    • Types of Mowing Equipment
    • Mower Types; slasher, cylinder, flail
    • Preparation before mowing
    • How to Mow
    • Leaf Rakes and Vacuums
    • After Mowing
    • Changing Mower Blades
    • Mowing Sports Turf
    • Sports Turf Mowers
    • Problems that can Occur when Mowing
    • Edging
    • Options for Mower Power Systems; 2 stroke, 4 stroke, electric
    • Hover Mowers, Ride on Mowers
    • Choosing a Mower
  3. Cultivation Techniques
    • When to Cultivate
    • Methods of Cultivation
    • Spiking, coring, drilling, grooving, forking, raking, air blast, etc.
    • Coring and hollow tinning for Sports Turf
    • Scarifying (Grooving)
    • Dethatching (Vertical Mowing)
  4. Preparing for Play on Sports grounds
    • Introduction
    • Dew Removal
    • Water Removal
    • Combing
    • Vertical Mowing
    • Mowing
    • Rolling
    • Marking for Play
  5. Preparing for Play of Greens
    • Golf, Croquet, Lawn Tennis, Lawn Bowls
    • Cricket Wicket Preparation
  6. Turf Protection and Preservation
    • Managing Use
    • Minimising Damage on Turf
    • Why Repair Turf
    • How to Repair Turf
    • Reconditioning Soil
    • Reducing weed populations in turf
    • Managing turf Pests
    • Managing Demand
    • Repairing Turf
  7. Irrigation and Drainage
    • Introduction
    • Travelling Sprinkler Systems
    • Quick Coupling Valve Systems
    • Manually Operated Irrigation Systems
    • Semi automatic Irrigation Systems
    • Automatic Irrigation Systems
    • Sprinklers, Valves, Controllers
    • Management of Water Features on Golf Courses
    • Improving Surface Drainage after Construction
    • Understanding Soils and Drainage, and Soil Compaction
  8. Soil Treatment and Sprays
    • Major Nutrients and Trace Elements
    • Fertilizer Types
    • Fertilizer Application
    • Soil pH and Soil Amendments
    • Cation Exchange Capacity
    • Pest Control; ants, beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers and crickets, leatherjackets
    • Disease Control; viruses, bacteria, fungi
  9. Evaluate Maintenance Facilities
    • Bent Grass for Bowling Greens
    • Couch Grass Greens
    • Analysis of Park Maintenance
    • Park Maintenance Tasks
  10. Develop a Management Plan
    • Common Environmental Problems; foliage burn, pollution, lack of water
    • Drainage Problems in Turf
    • Frost
    • Temperature
    • Wind
    • Plants have Varying Tolerance Levels
    • Programming Works; maintenance, new works, construction crew
    • Weeds
    • Weed Control Methods
    • Developing a Management Plan for a Specific Site

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Select turf varieties to suit different sports surface requirements; including different climates & soil types.
  • Select turf varieties to suit different sports surfaces (eg. lawn bowls, fairways, greens, league football, cricket)
  • Identify turf blends, their application and reason for use.
  • Explain alternative procedures for sports turf maintenance, used for different types of facilities.
  • Explain specific wear problems and solutions for the five types of turf facilities
  • Evaluate procedures being used to maintain different types of facilities.
  • Determine the resources required to maintain a selected sports turf.
  • Develop management plans for different types of sports turf facilities.
  • Explain the management of a turf nursery to produce a reliable supply of sod.
  • Explain the irrigation and drainage requirements for sports turf fields ..............and lots more!

Sports Turf is Different to other types of turf in many ways.

Primarily, the major difference is that sports turf may suffer more wear and tear than ornamental lawns. An ornamental lawn may be walked over very little, and when it is walked upon the traffic is generally mild. The amount of damage which a sports turf suffers will depend upon:

  • The amount of use it gets
  • The type of games which are being played on it
  • Weather conditions (e.g. it is more likely to be damaged in very wet weather)
  • Construction factors (e.g. soil type, drainage, and so on)
  • The type of turf cultivars growing in the turf
  • The health of the turf and, in relation to this, the level of care and maintenance.


(By M. Fielder: from a seminar organised by John Mason, ACS School Principal)

Grasses were used for lawns as early as the 13th century. The composition was typical of a natural meadow of that time with weeds giving added colour at flowering time. In the 16th and 17th centuries, information was recorded for the maintenance of chamomile lawns and bowling greens. The game of bowls has been recorded as early as the 13th century while the famous St. Andrews Golf Club in Scotland was founded in the 15th century.

It was not until the 18th century that references were made to obtaining seed from clean pastures instead of using seed from hay.

In the 19th century the scythe was being replaced by the cylinder mower and the introduction of turf management as we know it today, saw its beginnings.

The experimental study of turf appears to have started in the United States around 1885 by J. B. Olcott. He selected about 500 strains from thousands of plants and came to the conclusion that the best turf forming grasses were to be found in the genera Agrostis and Festuca. Improved strains of these two genera are still the basis for fine lawns, golf greens and bowling greens, even today.

The number of grasses suitable for turf is limited. Grass we use today is mostly selected and bred in Europe and the United States. Holland is emerging as a world leader in turf grass breeding while in the United States, couch grass, particularly the hybrids, have been developed and are being used in sporting situations.

The intended or actual use of a particular area is the deciding factor in the selection of grass species and its subsequent management. The situation will vary from a feature lawn with a high maintenance cost to a park which is only mown when necessary.

When planning a seed mixture, it is important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of different grasses and why certain grasses are used in preference to others.

Bent grasses and fescues such as Chewings and Creeping Red can withstand lower mowing than other grasses. The bent grass strains known as Penncross and Palustris are both stoloniferous and tend to become spongy with age. If these bent grasses are used alone or with fescues in a lawn, bowling green or golf green, annual scarifying, preening and coring is essential for their maintenance. In a park or sports oval, these varieties of bent grass tend to colonise and form patches choking out all other grasses and giving a very patchy appearance.

Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) is a perennial. It will not survive close mowing whilst winter grass (Poa annua) which is an annual will survive close mowing and can quickly become a serious weed. It is also seeds prolifically.

The Bermuda couches are used extensively where there is heavy wear because they bind the surface together despite being dormant in winter. It should be sewn in spring and summer.

Improved strains of perennial ryegrass with finer leaves have been developed for turf use. These strains have a deep strong root system and are easier to mow.

Tall fescue, also known as Demeter fescue, is a recent introduction to recreational areas although it has been in use as a pasture plant for a number of years.  It is a grass capable of withstanding severe wear and it has been used successfully in sports ovals and other areas where there is concentrated foot traffic. The finer fescues will persist in partially shaded areas for longer than other grass species, but in extreme shade no grass will persist.

Kikuyu can be used in situations where other grasses are destroyed by excessive wear, or where there is a limited water supply. To prevent it developing a spongy surface, low mowing is necessary in either spring or autumn. This grass is either dormant or semi‑dormant in winter when it becomes yellow and this unsightly colouring has rendered it unacceptable as a sports surface. Ryegrass, both perennial and annual, can be introduced in autumn to provide a more presentable appearance.



Often, the biggest problem facing a sports turf manager is that their facility is regularly over used. Factors beyond the control of the manager will often affect the extent to which the turf is used, and damaged.

To manage the use of the turf may require not only horticultural expertise, but also good communication skills, in order to clearly show the full implications of excessive use to the owners or senior management of a facility.

There may be situations that require turf personnel to inform management to inform users that a particular field or fairway is closed until repairs. Whether communicating to public or management, it is important that the necessity of the rearrangement/inconvenience is made perfectly clear, and is actually beneficial to the individuals in the long run.

Before informing anyone, it is essential that the wear and tear is determined. If the damage is significant then action is required immediately. It is best to maintain turf facilities in top condition rather than to let them deteriorate, then having to do major repairs.



  • Practice sessions could be held elsewhere as much as possible.
  • Use covers to protect against heavy rain, or to cover valuable turf wickets during practice sessions.
  • Using sponging/soaking machines to remove excess water.
  • Delaying the start of the season till surfaces are fully prepared.
  • Re-scheduling games to other locations, or to when the surface is better suited for use.
  • Temporary mid-season repairs
  • Changing the areas of most intense play, such as remarking playing areas, rotating playing strip on a turf wicket, moving the tee location on golf courses, moving the hole on golf greens, etc.
  • For top class turf facilities use air blowers, or even helicopters hovering above the ground to help dry out the surface


Opportunities After Your Studies

This course is of value to people who have an interest in sports grass and playing surfaces. It will also appeal to anyone with a general interest in turf care and repair. People who take this course are most likely those working in or aspiring to work in:

  • Sports turf maintenance
  • Green keeping
  • Lawn mowing
  • Grounds maintenance
  • Landscaping
  • Horticulture
  • Parks & gardens

The course will also be of value to people wishing to include a sports turf maintenance service as part of an existing mowing, turf care or landscaping business. 

Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.
Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
ACS is a Silver Sponsor of the AIH; and students studying designated courses are given free student membership. ACS and it's principal have had an association with AIH since the 1980's
ACS is a Silver Sponsor of the AIH; and students studying designated courses are given free student membership. ACS and it's principal have had an association with AIH since the 1980's
Principal John Mason has been honoured to be awarded a Fellow of Parks and Leisure Australia, having been an active member since 1974.
Principal John Mason has been honoured to be awarded a Fellow of Parks and Leisure Australia, having been an active member since 1974.
Our Principal John Mason, was awarded a fellowship by the Australian Institute of Horticulture in 2010
Our Principal John Mason, was awarded a fellowship by the Australian Institute of Horticulture in 2010
UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112
UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

John Mason (Horticulturist)

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant.
Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK.
He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world.

Jacinda Cole (Horticulturist)

B.Sc., Cert.Garden Design. Landscape Designer, Operations Manager, Consultant, Garden Writer.
She was operations manager for a highly reputable British Landscape firm (The Chelsea Gardener) before starting up her own landscaping firm. She spent three years working in our Gold Coast office, as a tutor and writer for Your Backyard (gardening magazine) which we produced monthly for a Sydney punlisher between 1999 and 2003. Since then, Jacinda has contributed regularly to many magazines, co authored several gardening books and is currently one of the "garden experts" writing regularly for the "green living" magazine "Home Grown".

Yvonne Sharpe

RHS Cert.Hort, Dip.Hort, M.Hort, Cert.Ed., Dip.Mgt. Over 30 years experience in business, education, management and horticulture. Former department head at a UK government vocational college. Yvonne has traveled widely within and beyond Europe, and has worked in many areas of horticulture from garden centres to horticultural therapy. She has served on industry committees and been actively involved with amateur garden clubs for decades.

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