A growing interest in artificial grass
Like all the great golfing masters, he attaches great value to a high-quality putting green – and it is becoming clear that there’s an important role in store for artificial grass. ‘In many sports, we observe a world-wide trend away from ordinary grass and towards artificial grass’, says Arnoud Fiolet of European Golf, the company that lays some 4 million square metres of artificial-grass per year. ‘Important reasons are the intensity of use, the maintenance aspects, and, of course, the costs.’ Football clubs are also showing a growing interest in artificial grass.
Take for example the Dutch clubs Heracles and Volendam. The FIFA and UEFA are positive as well. The qualifying competition between England and Russia, for the World Championships of 2008, was battled out on artificial grass. Fiolet: ‘In the case of golf, we’re still in the early stages, but artificial-grass golfing greens are on the up and up. And no wonder: the characteristics of our artificial-grass greens come close to normal greens – the similarity is between 90 and 95 percent.’
Short game and long game
The characteristics of the artificial-grass base vary per sport. After all, a hockey field is completely different from a football field or a golfing green. That is why European Golf teams up with major sports organisations and laboratories to develop, build and install high-quality artificial-grass systems. ‘A sand-filled, artificial-grass green is played in the same way with an iron 5 as you would a normal green. The grass responds in exactly the same way’, says Fiolet. ‘For chipping and putting, we use the unfilled versions. These can produce home-course speeds! Or, if you prefer a challenge, you can opt for Augusta National.’
Like Darren Clarke, Maarten Lafeber and Robert-Jan Derksen also work on their short game on private greens. Over half of the drives are done on and around the green; therefore, any golfer will see the sense in training there. So what could be better than an ever-available and virtually maintenance-free artificial-grass green in the living room, garden or roof garden? Golfing enthusiasts should allow for some 150 to 200 Euros per square metre. During the Amsterdam Golf 2009, a gigantic green measuring 225 square metres was laid to practise the necessary chips and putts.
And European Golf projects go much farther than private garden greens and miniature golf courses in amusement parks or cruise ships. The golfing public is rapidly expanding, both on professional and amateur levels, resulting not also in a need for extra 18-hole classic golf courses, but also for the smaller 6 and 9-hole initiatives, for which artificial grass proves to be an excellent alternative. Fiolet: ‘We are developing such projects all over Europe. For example in Spain, where water is a problem, and in places where the available space is limited. A new group of golfers has stood up; people who are quite happy to play the occasional game on a driving range or a 9-hole, artificial-grass court. Allowing the green fee to be reduced as well. In Vlaardingen, a town near Rotterdam, all 27 holes of FreeGolf are outfitted with artificial-grass greens. The majority of the golfing public is more than pleased. The use of artificial grass in the golfing sport is on the up and up, resulting in greater investments and, therefore, a higher quality in general.’