The R&A Golf Course and Equipment Standards Committees have joined forces to develop a device, the Turf Thumper, which measures the firmness of turf. The Golf Course Committee believe that firmness is one of the most important performance characteristics of a green or fairway. Dr Steve Otto, Director – Research and Testing at The R&A, has produced software which provides data on the deformation and resilience of turf impacted by the Turf Thumper, a tool initially advanced by the United States Golf Association (USGA).
Over a year of monthly assessment at three golf courses in Fife, Scotland, Dr Otto and Steve Isaac, R&A Assistant Director – Golf Course Management, have compiled a mass of data. The information collected from Balbirnie Park, Ladybank and the Old Course, St Andrews has confirmed the viability of the Turf Thumper as a means of objectively assessing one aspect of the performance of golf greens and fairways.
Analysis of data collected shows the thumper can determine seasonal variation in the firmness of turf, the effect of weather patterns (drying and wetting) and the impact of course maintenance practices. This has implications for benchmarking and reviewing the performance of playing surfaces, assessing the value of maintenance regimes and changes to current practices, and monitoring turf performance against other measurable parameters.
The success of this initial study has encouraged The R&A to commission an extended testing programme at sites across the UK, with a view to the production of guidelines on acceptable ranges of firmness for golf courses.
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