Natural Grass vs Synthetic Turf Decision Making Guide

A Decision Making Guide when determining whether to use Natural Grass or Synthetic Turf

The use of synthetic turf playing surfaces is becoming more widespread in Australia and Internationally.

An organisation’s (sport club, association, local or state government) decision whether to have a natural grass or synthetic turf sports ground comes down to their specific objectives for environmental, social, health and financial outcomes.

The purpose of this decision making guide (the guide) is to help organisations make an informed choice on surface type - natural grass v synthetic turf for sports grounds specifically football, cricket, lawn bowls, hockey, soccer, rugby, tennis, and other relevant multipurpose facilities.

The guide will step through a range of considerations including:

  • Demand and capacity
  • Local climatic and environmental factors
  • Sport specific requirements
  • Broader environmental issues
  • Social impacts
  • Health impacts and
  • Asset management and lifecycle costing

The intention of the guide is not to recommend natural grass or synthetic turf, but to provide the known evidence and facts relating to each surface type to allow your organisation to make an informed decision. The diagram to the right outlines the steps you need to follow in determining the most suitable surface for your situation.

This guide provides an outline of the considerations that need to be taken. A detailed report ‘Natural Grass v Synthetic Turf Study’ accompanies this guide and provides extensive information on each of the key considerations. This report should be referred to as you work through this guide, with links to the relevant sections provided at each step.

Natural Grass refers to any natural turf species used for sports ground construction i.e. Kikuyu, Couch and Rye grass.

Synthetic Turf refers to any artificial turf surface used in sports ground construction including unfilled, filled and water-based surfaces.

Traditionally sport has been played on natural grass surfaces. Natural grass sports surfaces were developed on open space sites set aside for recreation as towns and cities evolved. The nature of the sporting activity determined the requirements for the sports ground in relation to size and surface characteristics.

Synthetic turf was first invented in the mid 1960’s in the United States of America; it originally came into existence in the market place to replace natural grass that had difficulty growing in indoor stadiums. The Houston Astrodome was the world’s first fully enclosed stadium with a synthetic turf field.

Since the development of first generation synthetic turf sporting surfaces ongoing research and consequent improvements in synthetic turf technology, have overcome some initial issues experienced in the early days and have made synthetic turf more acceptable for a number of sports.

More information

Natural Grass v Synthetic Turf Study Report

Chapter 2 of the Natural Grass vs. Synthetic Turf Surfaces Study Final Report