Under foot at the Ryder Cup

  • Marco Simone Atlas
    Jacob Sjoman

    Marco Simone features grass developed by Pure-Seed Testing and co-marketed by Pure Seed and Atlas Turf International

  • Marco Simone Ryder
    Atlas Turf International

    Atlas Turf International, Pure Seed and European Golf Design teams on site during construction

  • Marco Simone Ryder
    Jacob Sjoman

    The course has Pure Distinction on greens, Pure Dynasty on fairways, approaches and collars, and Pure Links for the rough (twelfth hole, pictured)

  • Marco Simone Ryder
    Jacob Sjoman

    The fifteenth hole at Marco Simone

John Holmes
By John Holmes

There will be another entry on the long list of high-profile sporting events played on grasses supplied by Atlas Turf International and its partner Pure Seed next week, when the 2023 Ryder Cup takes place at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club, near Rome, Italy.

The course is located in Guidonia, just northeast of Rome, which has an extremely varied climate, with frost not uncommon in the winter and hot summers, making it a challenging environment in which to grow fine turf. This summer, southern Europe has been especially hot, with temperatures above 40 not uncommon.

In terms of turfgrass, the challenge entailed selecting the varieties best suited for the climate, possessing the ability to execute European Golf Design architect Dave Sampson’s vision for the redesign, and most capable of delivering playability that befits the iconic matches.

Almost all the turfgrasses at Marco Simone were developed by Pure-Seed Testing and co-marketed by Pure Seed and Atlas Turf International. The greens are Pure Distinction creeping bentgrass; tees, fairways, approaches and collars feature Pure Dynasty seeded paspalum; and the rough areas are Pure Links, a proprietary blend of tall and fine fescues.

Read more about the research and development of the Ryder Cup turfgrasses.

Sampson had experience with Pure Dynasty on the Royal Greens project in Saudi Arabia and this, combined with the quality playing surface it delivers and the grass’s excellent deep green coloration in the fall season in which the Ryder Cup takes place, drove the decision to use paspalum.

As a premium putting green grass, Pure Distinction is known for its smooth and true playing surface with dense, upright growth. In addition, it is heat and cold resistant, beneficial for the widely varying temperatures of Rome. The turfgrass has good disease resistance, excellent wear tolerance and offers quick recovery from injury.

Many championship facilities feature Pure Distinction, including The Golf Course at Adare Manor in Ireland, Burning Tree Country Club in Connecticut, and The Club at Chatham Hills in Indiana.

Pure Dynasty is an advanced blend and the only seeded paspalum product currently on the market. It shares genetics with the vegetative variety Platinum TE paspalum, which was recently in the spotlight as the turfgrass of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Pure Dynasty delivers an exceptional turf surface with tighter density, heat and cold tolerance, improved disease resistance, and the sustainability advantages of drought tolerance and superior salt tolerance. Its versatility allows for the varying heights of cut of the tees, fairways, collars, and surrounds at Marco Simone.

Sampson previously selected Pure Dynasty for application wall-to-wall when he designed Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. The venue has hosted multiple DP World Tour events where Pure Dynasty has stood the test of championship competition.

Since its introduction to the market less than 10 years ago, Pure Dynasty has been selected for some of the most prestigious new golf courses around the world. Besides delivering outstanding performance and appearance, Pure Dynasty is nearly unmatched when it comes to sustainability.

Rounding out the turfgrass selection at Marco Simone is PureLinks fescue for the rough. The specially designed blend of the highest-performing tall and fine fescue varieties delivers the desired characteristics of playability, colour, disease and drought resistance, salt tolerance, and quick establishment.

The majority of the PureLinks fescue varieties selected are qualified by the Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance for demonstrating a statistically significant water saving potential across rigorous multi-year drought trials.

Ryder Cup selected Marco Simone as a venue in 2015, and the redesign began in 2017. Among the challenges that Sampson faced were Covid-19 (which caused the original event date to be pushed from 2022 to 2023), the presence of gas and electric lines, and sensitivity towards the archaeology of the site.

The Marco Simone 11th-century castle is an Italian national monument, and the property has two other areas of archaeological significance, including the remains of a first-century Roman villa close to the tenth tee box. Working around these protected areas, and the gas lines, as well as arranging the burial of electrical lines, added complexity to the job.

Complicating the task even further are the unique requirements of designing a venue that will accommodate massive crowds of spectators and the hospitality areas essential to Ryder Cup venues.

Once these issues were resolved, the design was completed, and the site was prepped, seeding of the front nine holes took place in the summer of 2019. The back nine were seeded in 2020.

All the turfgrasses featured at Marco Simone, with the exception of two components in the fescue blend, are products of Pure-Seed Testing. Developing innovative varieties since the 1970s, Pure-Seed Testing is the largest privately held grass seed researcher in the world with over 200 acres, ongoing research in over 20 countries, and over 1,000 experimental cultivars across 20 species in development. Atlas Turf International partners with Pure Seed to bring the highest quality and most innovative turfgrass products to projects worldwide.

It is a massive vote of confidence to see an event of the status of the Ryder Cup played on our turfgrasses. No matter the outcome of the matches, we’ll leave Rome feeling like winners.

The Ryder Cup showcases the pinnacle of golfing excellence, where products are put to the ultimate test under the intense pressure of competition. It’s testament to the quality, reliability and performance of the Atlas Turf International and Pure Seed products that they’ve earned their place on this grand stage.

John Holmes is president of Atlas Turf International