Foundation Diploma in Sports Turf Science

Course CodeVHT088
Fee CodeFD
Duration (approx)1000 hours
QualificationFoundation Diploma

Learn to be a Turf Technician.

A quality turf is essential for most sports today. Participation and watching sports has become an integral part of modern society.

Being able to create and manage a turf surface well is both a science and a skill, in high demand from golf courses to playing fields.

This course is lengthy, technical, and comprehensive; providing you with the fundamental knowledge and awareness needed to forge a sound career and continue to develop a career to approach your full potential.


  • Commence studies anytime
  • Study at your pace; when and where you want
  • Develop your networking and communication skills within the context of the turf industry
  • Discover opportunities you may not have previously even thought of.


Core ModulesThese modules provide foundation knowledge for the Foundation Diploma in Sports Turf Science.
 Biochemistry I - Plants BSC102
 Botany I BSC104
 Horticultural Research A BHT118
 Soil Management - Horticulture BHT105
 Sports Turf Management BHT202
 Soil and Water Chemistry BSC307
 Turf Grasses BHT342
 Turf Repair And Renovation BHT303
Elective ModulesIn addition to the core modules, students study any 2 of the following 6 modules.
 Biochemistry II BSC203
 Botany II BSC204
 Irrigation - Gardens BHT210
 Weed Control BHT209
 Biochemistry III (Plant Processes) BSC302
 Professional Practice for Consultants BBS301

Note that each module in the Foundation Diploma in Sports Turf Science is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.


The management of turf grass has become increasingly technical over the past century, underpinned by many advances in soil and horticultural science. 

A great deal of research has been undertaken and continues today; some into turf cultivars, other studies focused on the management of soils, water or the turf surface.

Opportunities will always exist for a graduate from this course to work with their technical knowledge of turf, whether in research, consulting, teaching, writing, or some other facet of the turf industry.


Most turf research has tended to focus on individual species or cultivars, rather than blends.
Nevertheless, research into turf sward dynamics has been undertaken by many turf grass scientists over past decades; commonly assessing factors such as growth patterns, tiller (stem) density, turf biomass and turf quality, typically over a 12-month time period.
From such research, we can produce graphs such as the following, which can, over a period time, show us how biomass (in this case) or other characteristics of the different varieties in a turf sward can change. 

An understanding of the ecological dynamics within the sward is important. Every situation is different though and every turf manager will need to get to know the unique ecology of the turf they are managing, and then make intelligent decisions about how to blend the varieties they choose to use in their own situation.

Research by Dr Mary Lush in 1988

Considered a mix of Agrostis stolonifera with Poa annua, on a putting green, and found:

  • Number of tillers and biomass per unit area remained fairly constant all year round.
  • In summer A. stolonifera increased and P. annua decreased. In winter, P. annua increased and A. stolonifera decreased.

Research by Lush et al. in 1984 

This measured turf cover and sward composition on a turf wicket over the football season from autumn to spring. The wicket was comprised of Cynodon dactylon and Lolium perrene. Research found:

  • Couch was dormant in winter but rye was active.
  • L. perenne suffered wear when played on, but still recovered slightly between games
  • L. perenne growth in spring competed with and slowed recovery of C. dactylon as the weather warmed.


  • Increased resistance to pests and diseases
  • Ability to recover from wear and tear across the entire year is improved
  • Improved ability to deal with environmental extremes from lower temperatures or light conditions, to periods of heat stress or dryness.


  • Every different cultivar looks a little different (e.g. in texture and perhaps colour). When mixed, there is potential for a surface to look patchy.
  • If growth rates vary too much, one may dominate unless growth is controlled. The faster growing cultivar may require more frequent mowing for example, to suppress dominance.
  • Very different growth habits (e.g. one growing more vertical, and the other horizontal), may result in a compatibility or a conflict. This may mean ideal cutting heights are incompatible (it may also mean that the creeping cultivar is able to fill in gaps that occur between tussocks of the other species.
    Where a dominant grass goes through a dormancy period, it can be necessary to over seed the area to maintain a turf cover and prevent weed invasion during that dormancy period (e.g. Couch grass is often over seeded with rye grass for winter).



Drainage involves removing excess water from both:
a. The surface of the turf
b. The root zone.

Excessive water on or close to the surface can result in:

  • A shallow root system: the grass is more prone to damage such as drying out, or being dislodged 
  • A growth of algae on the surface: when this dries and dies it can create an impervious layer making water penetration even more difficult 
  • Poorer general health in the turf plant due to a resultant lack of oxygen: in effect a plant can drown in the extreme situation
  • Increased disease: prolonged wet periods can foster fungal diseases 
  • A slippery surface during play
  • In extreme situations, grass and other material may rot and smell.

Excessive water around the roots can result in:

  • Poorer general health in the turf plant
  • Increased disease 
  • Possibility of increased compaction
  • Accumulation of waste products such as fertiliser or chemical spray residues resulting in toxic levels if unchecked
  • As with surface water, grass and other material may rot and smell.

Testing Drainage

Soil drainage can be tested easily by observing the way in which water moves through soil which has been placed in a pot and watered. However, when soil is disturbed by digging, its characteristics may change. Another way, to get a more reliable result, is to use an empty tin can. With both the top and bottom removed it forms a parallel sided tube which can be pushed into the soil to a depth of about 4 centimetres. Care should be taken to disturb the soil as little as possible. Water can then be poured into the top of the can and allowed to drain down through the soil.

The drainage, or infiltration rate, can then be easily measured in terms of millimetres (mm), or height, of water that soaks into the soil per hour, or more simply the amount the water level drops, measured in millimetres, in the can each hour.  This can vary considerably according to the type of soil, from zero infiltration in water repellent sands, up to hundreds of millimetres per hour in coarse sands. As the soil becomes wetter the infiltration rate decreases until it reaches a constant rate. For some soils this may only take 15 or 20 minutes, for others it may take many hours. If this constant rate is very low, say just a few millimetres per hour, then even light rains will cause surface runoff and water to accumulate in surface depressions. 


Excessive water can be removed from turf in various ways including:

a/ Through Evaporation

This is greater in windy or sunny conditions.
Weather patterns affect water lost this way. Consider whether rain is heavy and infrequent, or frequent lighter showers.

b/ Through Surface Runoff

A build-up of water may flow over the surface of the turf to a low point.
The degree and direction of the slope are important, as is the surface covering. If the surface is covered by long grass, for instance an unmown playing field, surface drainage is slowed. However, if the surface is covered by low even cut turf, such as on a bowling green, surface drainage will be faster.
The composition of the soil, for example sand or clay, and the degree of compaction will also affect the surface drainage. If the water soaks in slowly, more water is likely to remain on the surface for longer.

c/ Sub Surface Drainage through the Soil Profile

In some soils, for instance sands, water will soak into the soil, and move deep into the soil quickly and naturally. In other soils, water will not soak in very fast for one reason or another. The reasons why water may not soak into the soil surface could include:

  • A compacted soil near the surface
  • A hard layer such as rock, clay, or compacted soil, not far below the surface
  • A high water table close to the surface. This is particularly likely on relatively flat ground close to sea level.

d/ Sub Surface Drainage through Purpose Built Drains

These may include such things as drainage pipes, trenches filled with sand, soakaways, and so on.


Drainage can be improved in a number of ways. These include:

  • Increasing the infiltration rate of water into the soil by improving the permeability of the soil
  • Provision of sub surface drainage to facilitate removal of water from the soil, for example PVC pipes
  • Provision of surface drainage to remove surface runoff efficiently.

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