SWG EMEA – The Product is in the Installation Process

As a first blog I think it is important to talk about the golf industry beginning to embrace synthetic turf solutions and how this impacts Southwest Greens.  It is true that throughout Europe you are starting to see various golf courses and academies opt with some form of synthetic turf at their respective facilities. 

The synthetic turf industry as it relates to golf has evolved a great deal.  But it is important to understand what products are out there and in what applications they can function.  Choosing to have a synthetic solution should be decided based on whether or not the synthetic solution provides sufficient long term funcionality as it relates to golf related performance characteristics.

It is with this in mind that I believe that focusing on the installation system is the key to deciding whether to go with synthetics or stay with conventional natural options on golf green surfaces.  To create acceptable performance, which I define using what I call the 3 B’s (Ball Roll, Ball Acceptance from incoming shots, and Ball Bite) one must understand that there are certain fundamental truths related to the installation system that create a synthetic golf green that performs.  To help put things in perspective, the synthetic football industry evolved greatly over many years, culminating in FIFA becoming involved and creating its One Star and Two Star football pitch performance criteria.  The football fields needed to pass performance testing at a high level, not only directly after installation, but also months and years afterwards.  This created the need for a comprehensive installation system to be developed to ensure the FIFA approved fields would pass the performance tests.  It became very clear what worked and what didn’t.  The synthetic golf industry is moving in this direction, as golf industry professionals are realizing that it only makes economic and practical sense to consider synthetics if the product is capable of performing in the long term. 

So in focusing on the installation system, I believe there are four key elements to consider.  The first is the use of adequate materials.  With base work it is not only about choosing the right material for the construction of the bases, but it is also about using the correct amount of material to ensure longevity and stability.  With the synthetic turf itself, unfortunately there are so many types to choose from, it is very difficult for the customer to understand what they are buying.  But the type of yarn used and how it is constructed (both with respect to fiber face weight and the backing that the fiber is tufted to) is very important in the long term impact of the product. It is important to note that not all turf is the same, and you must choose carefully the provider to ensure that the turf is of the highest quality.  Price doesn’t lie, meaning if you see a product that is half the price of the others out there, it is half the price for a very good reason.

The second key element is the installation process. There cannot be any shortcuts if a successful long term result is to be achieved. This means that there must be a comprehensive base constructed using crushed granite aggregate as a sub-base and then finishing with a granite dust to create final grades and undulations.  This base must be constructed with proper design considerations applied, and with drainage issues addressed.  From there comes the turf laying process involving a shock pad underlay of the correct density and quality, and then the application of various cuts of turf to create a product that performs similar to the golf greens at high quality golf courses.  The only product that has the capability to succeed in performing in the long term is a sand fill product.  But sand fill can only work if no short cuts are taken and the correct methodology is administered during installation, with the sufficient amount of materials used. 

The third key element is the craftsmanship of the installation team, and the experience levels of the project managers.  Because this is a young industry, there are few companies that are fortunate to have quality technicians that understand how comprehensive they must be to create a performing synthetic surface.  To correctly install a synthetic golf green, it requires a tremendous amount of technical knowledge and craftsmanship.

The final key element is the environmental consideration, ensuring the product installed is recyclable, without any harmful heavy metals.  It is common for lower priced products to have heavy metals and lead in their turfs, due to the raw materials used in the manufacturing process.

The consideration for a customer looking for a synthetic golf solution is simple.  Try the product, test it yourself, and see how it performs with respect to the 3 B’s mentioned above.

Kind Regards to all,

Kevin Holinaty, President & CTO

Southwest Greens EMEA

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