Tackling lawn-standing problems at football pitches using science

When you think about places that need healthy, lush coverage of green grass, golf courses and football fields probably spring quickly to mind. Samsung C&T Resort Group, which manages no fewer than 6 golf clubs in Korea, has been sharing its proprietary knowledge and accumulated experience of growing pristine lawns with the Korea Professional Football League, yielding impressive results.

Glen Ross golf course is one of 6 in Korea run by Samsung C&T Resort Group.

Learning about lawns

Samsung C&T Resort Group’s Lawn Environment Institute (LEI) opened in 1993 as Korea’s first specialist body focusing on researching how to create the best lawns. It manages the greens of some of the nation’s top luxury golf courses, such as at Anyang Country Club and Gapyeong Benest Golf Club, both operated directly by the Resort Group.

Inside Samsung C&T’s Lawn Environment Institute
The LEI has turned good lawn growing into a science using systematic techniques and unrivaled technology. It now provides turf management consulting to more than 30 golf courses around Korea.
Beyond that, the LEI has developed its own new strains of grass – Anyang Jungji and Greenever – as well as new methods of lawn disease diagnosis and prevention. In order to promote the growth of the domestic grass industry, the LEI has organized information exchange symposia on lawn management in line with climate change.

The grass is now greener

In 2021, Samsung C&T’s Lawn Environment Institute signed a contract with the Korea Professional Football League to consult on lawn management, and now provides this service to 12 teams in K League 1 and 11 teams in K League 2, for a total of 23 domestic football pitches. Twice each year, researchers from the LEI visit each stadium in spring and summer to check the condition of the lawn and suggest detailed ways to improve it.

The lawn at a football pitch 2 years ago. Right: A much denser, lusher lawn after 2 years of consulting by LEI.
The positive effects have been both remarkable and tangible, as lawn health and quality are measured by a number of indices. Over the last 2 years, the average grass density at the 23 football fields has increased by 16.2% and the color index has grown by 11.6%. Meanwhile, root length and normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI, the criteria for determining the presence or absence of vegetation in crops by image), which usually take a long time to change, both increased by 2% in the same period.
Put that all together and it means there has been a noticeable improvement in the overall grass growth and firmness of the pitch. This in turn prevents players from getting injured easily and improves the accuracy of their passing and shooting, which leads to better game play.
Researchers from the Lawn Environment Institute take measurements and samples at a football stadium for analysis.

When an unsatisfactory patch of grass is discovered at a stadium, a sample is sent to the LEI for analysis. Feedback and communication is ongoing between the K League stadiums and the LEI to find solutions to problems. Said a lawn keeper at Ulsan Infrastructure Corporation, which manages Ulsan Munsu Stadium, “At one stage there was a grass pest, but we were able to fix it by consulting with the Lawn Environment Institute,” adding, “With scientific data, we were able to do the work necessary to improve the lawn here.”

Kicking goals

The feedback from footballers has been positive. Lee Chung-yong of Ulsan Hyundai Football Team commented, “There have been times when the condition of the grass was sub-optimal because of Korea’s hot and rainy summers, but recently I feel that the grass has become greener and softer.” He went on to say, “Our overall performance has improved, and the turf is good enough for players to play boldly without hesitation.” That means more tackling and sliding, no doubt pleasing football spectators.
A K League official said, “Through two years of consulting, the capabilities of our grass managers at each stadium have been consolidated and lawn quality issues have recently been on the decline.”
Encouraged by this, Samsung C&T Resort Group’s Lawn Environment Institute will continue to strive to achieve good results in growing thick green lawns wherever they are needed.
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