Grass Polo Field Maintenance

Paul Stevens -- "sports turf advisor"

Paul Stevens is an expert on grass and polo fields. He was Facility Manager for  3 years at Guards Polo Club in Windsor, England (7 full sized polo fields and 150 playing members). He has 14 years experience in Sports Turf Management. He has his degree from Michigan State in Sports Turf Science, and he is now working on his MSc in Golf Course Ecology. His specialty is Polo fields. He is 32 years old (in 2003) and he has worked in England, France, Canada, USA, Dubai, and Thailand advising polo clubs how to manage their turfs in temperate, desert and tropical climates. He founded his own company, Eichon, in 2002, and he writes a monthly article on Turf Management for the Polo Times. An enthusiastic rugby and squash player, Paul is serious about turf.

UK Phone: 44+1784 435959

Paul's philosophy is to help polo clubs save money by teaching them to solve their own problems. He encourages people to call him, and he will try to help them by phone. Many clubs then invite him to advise them how to improve and manage their fields. Paul is currently in discussion with H.P.A. (Hurlingham Polo Association) to publish his thesis on polo grounds development and maintenance. He will also be an advisor to the 40 affiliated mainland UK clubs and conduct 4 visits per year to the clubs.

Paul Stevens advising groundskeepers at Siam Polo Park

Some of the topics that Paul covers in his analysis of a polo field are: 
- Soil composition, 
- Irrigation, 
- Fertilizer management, 
- Grass types, 
- Field construction, 
- Drainage, 
- Renovation of existing fields, 
- Diseases and remedies, 
- Weed control, 
- Worm control,
- As well as the benefits of using seed or turf, blending cultivars of the same genus, mixing different genus (types of grass), turning subsoil into topsoil by mechanical and organic means, the importance of using a rain gage to measure irrigation.

Paul is very serious that a polo club should have the right equipment. He believes that the following are essential (in order of priority): 
- Rotary mower (4.8 meters with roller), 
- Fertilizer spreader (using 50% overlap), 
- Golf buggy (to carry fresh "loamy sand" to fill the holes after a game), 
- Top dresser (for dispersing loamy sand on the field), 
- Hollow coring device (to remove 4"x3/4" holes from the field for aeration & must top dress after), 
- Vertidraining (for deep tine aeration 6-18" deep). 
- Paul is insistent that you should never roll a polo field. It stops the water movement and aeration!  

More Information and Equipment for improving AERATION

Paul is showing the effects of fertilizer burn which results from spreading fertilizer by hand and not with a machine. He also emphasizes the need to water the field within two hours after administering the fertilizer. Fertilizer is salt-based (urea), so it will burn the grass if it is not washed down into the soil. Paul is most insistent that filling the divots on the polo field immediately after play is extremely important. If you place loamy sand in the divots immediately, then the grass will recover in 24 hours. If you wait 24 hours to fill the divot, then it will take 7 days for the grass to recover. This is due to the time the roots are exposed. Paul also insists "syringing" (watering lightly during the day to keep cool) is not necessary for a polo field. It is necessary for a golfing green, because the grass is so short, but not for polo field, it only volatizes (evaporates) and scorches the grass (by leaving prisms on the grass that burn it). The best irrigation scheme is at night, every other night (for a tropical polo field with Bermuda grass), so that the grass receives approximately 20 ml of water per 2 days per unit area.

Email Paul

Paul also suggests that if you are having a problem with worms or larvae on your turf, you should collect a sample of the beetle or fly. There will be a certain date (1-2 times per year) when the beetle or fly larvae are present on the field. This is the time to spray them. You should go to your local agricultural college near your field and get a list of Turf Pests. The college will have pictures and the reproductive cycles of these pests. They they can help you to determine the chemical control necessary to treat your turf. 

The best polo fields are made from seed. Ideally, it will take 2 years for the field to be ready, but in the right conditions and care, the field can be played on after 6 months. For Temperate climates, Paul suggests a mix of 60% Kentuky Blue grass, with 20% Rye, and 20% Fescue. The Kentuky Blue is good for cold climates like UK. It is a good looking grass with rhizomous roots (spread beneath the surface). It takes about 14 days to germinate from seed. The Rye grass is "tufted" (not rhizomous); it germinates in about 4 days, establishing very quickly, so it can stop weed invasion and stabilize the soil. The Fescue germinates in about 7 days. It is very draught tolerant, and the creeping-red Fescue has rhizomous roots. Basically, the cooler the climate, the less fertility requirement of the soil, because the grass does not grow as rapidly. 

For tropical and desert polo fields, Paul suggests zoysia, Bermuda, paspalum or St. Augustine. These are different genus of grass. Paul feels it is better to chose one genus of grass, but then to have different cultivars of that grass. Monoculture (lack of a variety in cultivars) is bad, because one insect or disease could destroy the entire field. Tropical grass has a very high requirement for water and also a more fertile soil. Bermuda grass is a good warm season grass with stoloniferous roots (travel above the surface). 

There are three ways to make a polo field:
- Turf (buying already grown turf and laying it down). This is the fastest, but also most expensive method.
- Seed (prepare the soil and seed it). The best, but the slowest method. 
- Sprigging (scarify the grass by scraping up the roots, then planting and rolling on the same day). This is a faster method that starting from seed. 

Polo field drainage is another topic that Paul is knowledgeable about. The best conditions are to use a "loamy sand" soil, then place 4" semi-permeable pipe (1/8" holes - 6 holes per square inch) between 3 meter to 6 meter apart. These pipes are buried 18" beneath the surface of the field at a 1 degree drainage slope. The root zone is 8"-14", so the roots won't interfere at this depth. There must be a "flush point" on each of these pipes, so that every year they can be flushed out with water from a high-pressure hose. Paul also suggests that you never want to design a polo field with major infrastructure or pipes beneath the surface. It is dangerous, and destroys the field if you ever have to repair the infrastructure. 

When leveling the polo field, Paul suggests the professional laser is best. However, he says it is also perfectly adequate to use your car headlights on the edge of the field at night to spotlight the high areas, then you can add filler sand to the low areas and level out the field that way. You can also use this method to try to make a bumpy field level. It takes longer, but can save money.

Paul got into the turf business because he enjoys creating a beautiful well-prepared turf. He likes to share information and to empower polo clubs to deal with their own issues. If you want someone who is serious about his turf, Contact Paul.


Michael Cannon is the Managing Director of a company in England that has been utilizing the concept of mixing Polypropylene Fibers with existing soils (or other soil blends) to reinforce grass athletic surfaces to withstand high impact wear. The fibers are about hair thickness and 35mm long are are mixed into the top 4" of the soil. The grass then grows down through this fiber mat to create a very strong natural turf that is very resistant to divots and damage. Over 50% of the Premier Leage Football matches in England are played on "Fibreturf." This material is especially useful in front of the goal mouth where there is a lot of activity and wear on the field. Horseracing tracks and gallops  in UK, France and Singapore (Kanji Racetrack) have been using this technology to stop kickback and to strengthen the surface for racing in the rain, and the Abu Dhabi polo field uses fibreturf. The applications for a polo field are particularly interesting to reduce the damage from horses hooves in front of the goal. Perhaps, this technology may be applicable for your polo field. Email Michael Cannon of Fibresand
Michael Cannon, Managing Director, Fibresand Internatonal, Ash House, Ransomwood Business Park, Southwell Road, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire NG21OER, United Kingdom. Tel: 44+1623-675305 // Fax: 44+1623-675308.

Michael Cannon comments on Fibresand applications for a polo field:
1. Creating gravel slits in a similar manner to the football field design with peripheral collecting drains on the sides and ends. These would be topped up with Fibreturf capping and sprigs.
2. The idea of growing Fibreturf on site in a nursery situation from where it could be transferred to high wear areas. This might be in simple sods or could be in rolls measuring 50 m long x 1 m wide and 3.5 cm deep.
3. Hollow core areas such as the goal mouths, then spread 2.5 cm of Fibresand as top dressing and follow up with solid tines which would press the Fibresand top dressing into the voids already created. There might need to be some additional brushing to remove the surplus Fibresand.
4. A trial area of 10 m x 10 m on the practice ground where your existing turf could be lifted at 3.5 cm. The existing rootzone would then be removed down to 12 cm and replaced with the Fibreturf mixture. Your original turf would then be relaid and the roots allowed to develop into the new rootzone with watering and fertilisation. We would have incorporated a slow release fertiliser in the rootzone which would assist matters.
5. Whilst none of these options appeal for various reasons at present you came up with the excellent idea of using the Fibreturf mix to fill divots. It was suggested that you take 50 tonnes of the Fibreturf mixture at THB 100,000 which I believe is too much material. The price is significantly discounted and I would suggest that you take 20 tonnes at THB 40,000 to prove the idea to your satisfaction. This would be on an ex works basis at the Siam Steel port and you could arrange your own truck to collect and deliver to the polo ground. The Fibreturf mixture will need to be kept moist at about 10% moisture and upon arrival it may be sensible to place it in 50kg bags so that it can be carried out on to the polo ground with little difficulty. The same method of seeding should be used as at present. It would also be wise to incorporate a slow release fertiliser and to keep the areas moist.
6. Contact in Bangkok - Khun Warawesh Pattarapakdeetham - sr. manager, fibresand department, Siam Steel Service Center Public Company, Mobile: 018431321 // Tel: 023859794 // Email: