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Sportsfield benchmarking – best use modelling project

The project aims to improve the safety and quality of sports fields by a process of defining, measuring and benchmarking the factors which contribute to the performance of a playing surface.

Participating clubs, representing different sports from around Australia, will be provided with an audit report on their playing surfaces and a summary of development options. The information gained will be used to generate a national database, produce a self-assessment tool and determine the need for new products in the turf industry.


Full titleBest Use Modelling for Sustainable Australian Sports Field Surfaces
IDBest Use Modelling Project (BUMP)
DatesStart date: June 2007
End date: July 2009
Project leaderKeith McAuliffe, Executive Officer, Sports Turf Institute (STI), Australia
  • Provide participating councils (or sports clubs/schools) with an audit report from an independent expert outlining and benchmarking current sports field characteristics and documenting limitations to performance (accessibility, quality and safety).
  • Produce a summary report on the cost benefit analysis of various sports field development options (e.g. suitable turf selection, root zone amelioration and irrigation systems), including the expected usage capabilities of each option.
  • Develop a national database using the recorded information on sports field performance.
  • Derive a self-assessment tool to guide councils in determining best management practices and optimal allocation of resources for upgrading or maintaining playing surfaces.
  • Clearly define measurable customer requirements, which can be used as a basis for (and drive) the turf industry´s product development program.
  • Participating sporting clubs will have improved knowledge and capacity to enhance the accessibility, safety and quality of their playing fields. This will deliver sustainable sports fields to local communities, along with the opportunity for a healthy active future.
  • The national database will collect data for use in the regional benchmarking of playing surfaces. This will assist in future planning by detailing sports field usage patterns and management requirements.
  • Sporting institutions will be able to use the self-assessment tool to determine best management practices and efficient resource allocation for upgrading or maintaining playing surfaces.
  • The turf industry´s product development program can be driven by defined consumer requirements.
MethodologySites were identified in conjunction with Parks and Leisure Australia and using the researchers´ industry networks.

The first step at a participating site is to obtain a history. This encompasses detailed information about the construction, management, maintenance and usage of each of the sports fields selected for inclusion.

Secondly, a range of tests are undertaken at pre-determined locations across a field. This varies with the sport being played due to different field usage patterns.

Measurements include:

  • water infiltration (using an infiltrometer). This assists in identifying trends and variances, (such as the impact of organic matter or soil compaction within the soil profile)
  • ground hardness (using a Clegg Impact Soil Tester), indicating the shock absorbency of the turf/soil surface
  • visual soil compaction assessment, texture analysis (between horizons), thatch and rooting depth, and mottles assessment (using a 50 mm soil sampler). This determines if there is a oxidation-reduction process occurring within the profile
  • species composition e.g. turf and weeds present (with a 0.25m2 quadrant)
  • percentage soil moisture (using a Theta moisture probe), highlighting irrigation or construction issues
  • vertical penetration and transitional shear resistance of the turf surface (using a Going Stick).
AchievementsSince November 2007, the collaborative research team has benchmarked over 200 sports fields in various states and territories across Australia. STI and the department turf research staff have observed a number of sports surface parameters which have challenged turf managers and sporting associations.

High usage, poor irrigation uniformity, unfavourable species composition and compaction are impacting on the quality and safety of surfaces at single and multi-use venues.

On the positive side, many of these problems can be corrected over time with appropriate varietal selection, irrigation use, method of construction, levels of use and maintenance – providing sufficient support, education and much-needed resources are available.

Project staffMatt Roche, email:
Collaborating agenciesFunded by Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL). Lead by Sports Turf Institute (Australia), in conjunction with the department and Parks and Leisure Australia (PLA).
Research locationsParticipating sporting venues in Queensland and interstate.


  • Roche, MB 2008. Project to BUMP up sports field surface quality. Australian Turfgrass Management 10 (4) 82-83.
  • Roche, MB 2008. Modelling for sustainable sportsfields. TurfCraft International. 121 (Jul-Aug.):13.


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