Eastbourne golf club first in the world to try new hybrid green technology
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Back in January the Eastbourne Downs Golf Course was hit by vandals quad biking all over the 2nd and 15th greens. Jon Gross, club member, said: “We’ve had damage before to the greens but never to that extent. Most courses suffer from time to time but we’re quite vulnerable because we’re so isolated up here.”
The damage triggered the club to be approached about trying out hybrid grass by Danny Negus, grounds manager at Devonshire Park. In May the 15th green had a traditional reseeding repair, and the 2nd green was fitted with hybrid grass.
Mr Negus explained that hybrid grass is a mix of synthetic fibres stitched into the ground alongside real grass. The fibres are cut slightly shorter than the real grass so that the ball rolls on the real grass but the fibres add stability to the structure. The technology is already used in other major sports such as football and cricket, but has never been done on a golf green before. Stability gained from the synthetic fibres is why you never see a Premier League football pitch cut up and muddy.
Mr Negus said: “This is innovative. It’s never been done before in the world of golf and as such has an element of risk - no one knows the relationship between the ball and the surface. We had no idea if it would work to play golf on - you can make educated predictions but you can’t guarantee it, you need someone to have a go through live trials.”
Mr Negus got in touch with a number of turf companies who offered their services for free in return for all data gained from the experiment being released to the industry for free. The project would have cost around £56,000.
Since the hybrid work was done in May, ProPitch - a company that tests sports surfaces all over the world - has been carrying out regular checks on the 2nd and 15th greens to compare how they perform. The club has also been collecting data on the surfaces and all data will be presented to the industry once the greens have been up and running for a year.
Already Mr Negus said it’s looking good. He said: “So far the results are very promising. Once you get a year in, I think that’s when data will be shared and more golf clubs could follow suit. We’re on the brink of an exciting revelation, this is a brilliant coup for Eastbourne.”
The 2nd and 3rd greens were hit with criminal damage again in October. Mr Gross said: “The proof is in the pudding, with the damage in October we were playing on [the 2nd green] again the next morning - hybrid grass is a game changer.”
Vice captain Pete O’Neill said: “Playing-wise I was very surprised. I must admit I’m very impressed. Members have generally taken to it quite well.”
Mr Negus said: "I’m not currently saying this should be used at one of the golf majors, but for members clubs you have to be looking at getting people round your course and keeping the course playable. I think there’s a big future in this. The reality is people are coming round to the idea - it’s used in other sports so eventually golf has to follow suit. There will be more environmental restrictions coming so if you’re not looking at ways to mitigate future risks then what are you doing? You need to move with the times.”
Councillor Margaret Bannister, Eastbourne Borough Council lead member for tourism and culture, said: “Eastbourne Downs Golf Course is truly unique and there are few courses in the country that can match its stunning national park location with flourishing wildlife and coastal views all the way across Eastbourne to Hastings. Danny and his team are leading the way in hybrid green technology and the results of this are extremely promising, really putting Eastbourne Downs on the golfing map.”
Club captain Rasoul Shahilow said: “We’re very proud to be leading the way with this.”