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Duration (approx) 500 hours
Qualification Proficiency Award

Sports Turf Management Online Course

Become an expert in caring for sports turf with this 500 hour distance learning course.

  • Learn more about sports turf, irrigation and turf care.
  • Select from different Core Modules to focus the qualification to the areas of knowledge you want to develop, including Turf Renovation, Irrigation Management, and Sports Turf.
  • Learn about the selection, application and maintenance of turfs used in sporting applications - golf courses, bowling greens, playing fields, cricket pitches, and other applications.
  • Study Turf Grasses - learn about the biology of turf grass, know which grasses to choose for which application, or how to combine cultivars to provide a grass tailored for specific applications.
  • With the Turf Repair and Renovation module you will develop your knowledge to inspect turf and identify and resolve problems with the turf to return it to an optimal condition. Sports surfaces take a lot of wear and it is important to know how to deal damage to the turf.
  • The Irrigation Management module will broaden your knowledge of the design and management of irrigation systems. The module focuses on larger scale systems, such as those employed for sporting greens/fields/turf, or crops etc. This is a specialist irrigation course for those wanting to specialise in irrigation and assumes a pre-existing level of knowledge. 
  • Also complete an industry project or research piece focusing on your areas of study.


Core ModulesThese modules provide foundation knowledge for the PROFICIENCY AWARD IN SPORTS TURF AND IRRIGATION VHT247
Elective ModulesIn addition to the core modules, students study any 3 of the following 6 modules.

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Become an expert in Sports Turf and Irrigation

Grass is a very forgiving and tolerant plant. It can thrive despite repeated trampling and nibbling. While sports persons rarely nibble the playing surface, they do trample and disturb the grass on which they are playing their chosen sport. The level of damage depends of the sport with rugby union and lawn tennis creating much bigger problems than crown green bowling and croquet.

  • Learn about the different cultivars used for sports turf/greens. Different varieties of grass are used reflecting the different demands which are placed upon it.
  • Learn about the different maintenance and cutting regimes which will apply to the types of grass chosen and its application.
  • Irrigation is a fine art that will greatly influence the quality of the sward - selecting the Irrigation Management module as part of the Proficiency Award will equip you with the knowledge of the design, installation, and maintenance of systems.
  • Study the Proficiency Award in Sports Turf and Irrigation to understand the demands, problems, and maintenance requirements required to keep a wide range of sports turfs in healthy condition.
  • The course consists of three 100 hour modules and a 200 hour industry project/work experience.

There are many different species of grass that are used in lawns and greens. Many of these have been bred and selected over a very long time, to create many varied cultivars, each with particular and distinct characteristics, geared to meet very specific needs in the turf industry. The options of what to grow are complex; and to achieve an optimum result, a turf professional needs a great deal of knowledge and experience.

Rye Grasses are just one of many types.

Rye grasses belong to the genus Lolium and species used in turf include:
Perennial Ryegrass - Lolium perenne
Italian Ryegrass - Lolium multiflorum (syn. Lolium italicum
Annual Ryegrass - Lolium rigidum


Lolium perenne

Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) varies widely genetically; Mediterranean bred types (from Southern Europe) can over-winter and retain the colour and still grow, those from northern Europe (Continental types) shut down over winter - due to their adaption to extreme cold conditions. Countries such as New Zealand and Australia use the rye-grasses with the Mediterranean genetics. Those grown in the colder parts of the USA and Europe are those with Continental genetics.

Perennial ryegrass is and upright growing grass that during the growing season forms a large leafy herb. It has very high ‘wear tolerance’ and because of its durability, its ability to produce a good sustainable playing surface, to spread quickly over damaged areas and recuperate well and because it remains green over-winter, it is often used and suited to sports fields in a mix of other species.  It is also suited to high traffic areas consequently It is used widely not only on sports grounds but also for ornamental and functional applications. It is probably the most commonly used turf.

Botanical characteristics of the genus are leaves with falcate auricles; florescence and raceme with spikelets (several or many flowered) sitting in two opposite rows laterally along the rachis; lower glume absent on all but the terminal spikelet, the upper glume abaxial (facing outwards from the stem) is shorter than lemma but may as long as the spikelet and is coriaceous. The lemma membranous to coriaceous and may present with or without a sub-terminal awn. The hilum is linear in shape.

Perennial ryegrass makes up the most productive pastures in Britain, Ireland, Europe, New Zealand, and the cooler regions of North America and Australia. Nutritive value is very high and they are very palatable to sheep and cattle.

It is incredibly resistant to cold weather and frost and grows from early autumn – winter, flowering in spring and early summer. Different cultivars have different lengths of summer dormancy therefore summer growth is determined by this.

For pasture, perennial ryegrasses can be sown alone but more often grass mixtures containing perennial ryegrass, cocksfoot and tall fescue, with appropriate legumes are preferred. Ryegrass seedlings are vigorous; therefore do not sow species with less vigorous seedlings in the seed mix (e.g. phalaris).


  • 10-90cm tall
  • Loose or dense tufts
  • Green hairless leaves, smooth sheaths
  • Leaf bases are pinkish when young

With improved breeding and careful selection there is now a range of cultivars that differ significantly in maturity, summer dormancy and resistance to moisture stress and diseases.  These cultivars are densely tufted with dark green leaves which are shiny on the under surface. The flowering stems are erect spikes bearing straw coloured seeds about 6mm long. 


Sometimes used to provide a quick interim cover until other turf species develop fully.
It requires a fertile soil of medium texture but does not like loose soils that dry out quickly. Generous fertiliser produces the best results.


Seeds are best sown on clean, fertile loamy soil. Provided they receive adequate rainfall, seeds are easy to establish and will grow vigorously. The recommended sowing rate of 11.2 kg/ha is best in autumn, but spring sowing is possible in districts with more than 760 mm rainfall per annum. In low rainfall areas that have high evaporation rates, drill the seeds about 12 mm deep.


Perennial ryegrass is susceptible to rust (Puccinia coronata) during warm humid weather usually in autumn.

Professional training: taught by professionals for professional development

The Proficiency Award in Sports Turf and Irrigation has been developed by highly knowledgeable, experienced horticulturalists. It is studied by distance learning, and students studying the course benefit from the support and guidance of our specialists throughout their study.

Our courses are designed to offer high quality, yet flexible learning. You choose when and where you study, enabling you to continue with any work commitments whilst you work towards your specialist qualification.

The different module options available on this course mean that not only do you choose areas of study which you want to focus on, but once you have achieved the qualification it will mean that it is particularly relevant (and unique) to you.

You can enrol on the course at any time, but if you have any questions, then please get in touch with our specialist horticulture tutors today. They will be pleased to answer your questions and discuss the study options which will most suit your study aims.

Courses can be started anytime from anywhere in the world!

Meet some of our academics

Timothy WalkerB.A.(Botany), RHS.M. Hort., Post.Grad.Dip.Ed. Former Director, Oxford Botanic Gardens.
Maggi BrownMaggi is regarded as an expert in organic growing throughout the UK, having worked for two decades as Education Officer at the world renowned Henry Doubleday Research Association. She has been active in education, environmental management and horticulture across the UK for more than three decades. Some of Maggi's qualifications include RHS Cert. Hort. Cert. Ed. Member RHS Life Member Garden Organic (HDRA) .
Diana Cole (Horticulturist)Horticulturist, Permaculturist, Landscaper, Environmentalist. Holds a Diploma in Horticulture, degree in geography, permaculture certificate and various other qualifications. Between 1985 and 94, Diana was a task leader with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. Since 2001 she has been chairperson of the Friends of Mellor Park (with Stockport MDC). From 2005 she has worked exclusively in horticulture as proprietor of her own garden design and consultancy business in and around Derbyshire; and at the same time as part time manager of a small garden centre. Diana has been an enthusiastic and very knowledgeable tutor with ACS since 2008.
Yvonne Sharpe (Horticulturist)Started gardening in 1966, studied a series of horticulture qualifications throughout the 1980's and 90's, culminating in an RHS Master of Horticulture. Between 89 and 1994, she worked teaching in horticultural therapy. Founded the West Herts Garden Association in 1990 and exhibited at Chelsea Flower Show in 1991. In 1994, Yvonne joined the staff at Oaklands College, and between 1996 and 2000 was coordinator for all Amenity Horticulture courses at that college. Since leaving Oakland she has been active as a horticultural consultant, retail garden centre proprietor and sessional lecturer (across many colleges in southern England). In 2000, she also completed a Diploma in Management.

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