Some people enjoy taking care of their lawns and find it a very relaxing hobby. Others may not have the time, inclination, or skill to do this job themselves and hire the services of lawn care specialists. However, when it comes to maintaining lawns, pitches, fields, or courses for sports events, a choice has to be made between using artificial lawns and natural grass. Millions could be spent on resurfacing and maintenance. Which one of the two is better is still very much up for debate.
Performance and Injury
Some football is played on grass, and some on artificial turf. There is a continuing debate as to which is better. On the surface, it would seem that artificial would produce a more even, predictable, and more repeatable surface. That should mean consistency in ground performance around different stadiums.
In theory, this should mean that there also fewer injuries as players are familiar with the ground they play on. However, the evidence does not back this claim. Indeed, it seemed that artificial turf made injuries more frequent. Fake fields do not have the same give as natural grass. Players could push their bodies to perform tighter and more explosive changes in direction and acceleration, and this extra strain could be the cause of higher levels of injuries.
It could also be that proper footwear is not being used on artificial turf. In soccer, which is predominantly played on the grass around the world, football boots with studs allow for grip and control. You cannot wear full blades or studs on AstroTurf.
Difference not a bad thing
The repeatable playing field desired across stadiums does not apply in all sports. In billiards or snooker, you don’t want any difference. You want the green to run the same on tables, no matter if you’re in China or the UK. However, some sports appreciate a difference in how the ground performs.
In soccer, a notorious tactic used in the past was that a team that was considered much weaker than their opponent would sometimes make their pitches poor to play on. Surfaces would be uneven with lots of divots and patches of water-logged areas. That would nullify the superior skill of the supposed better team, with their more skillful players unable to bring their skills to bear on poor surfaces. FIFA, the official world body for soccer, now has guidelines in place that maintain a certain standard on pitches that host official FIFA matches.
Soccer pitches also vary in size, from a stadium to another. That means that a team has to adapt their playing style sometimes. A wide pitch can favor expansive wing play. A smaller and narrower one will support teams that have excellent retention skills and can play tight and focused passing.
Wimbledon, the only grass surface tennis grand slam event, is a prime example where the surface is considered a fundamental part of the event. On a grass surface, the tennis ball bounces much lower than on other artificial surfaces; the ball zips through. The grass game is considered much quicker, and it is interesting to see that Wimbledon traditionally throws up many more unexpected champions, with the top rankers sometimes being thrown off their game.
The technology around artificial turf is improving, but so is the technology that can maintain natural grass in sports fields. It looks as if the battle between natural and artificial will wage on for some time.