Research Programme

Strategic research objectives

The golf and turfgrass industry, like other land-based industries, has to take responsibility for sustainable societal development, i.e. produce golf courses and other turfgrass areas of a high standard while at the same time ensuring the sustainable use of natural resources and contributing to functioning ecosystems.

The aim of STERF is to support R&D that can help the golf industry to fulfil these ambitions. The activities of STERF should lead to improvements in the quality of golf courses, as well as economic and environmental gains for the industry and society as a whole.

The strategic objectives for STERF-funded R&D activities are that:

  • The design, construction, management and administration of golf courses provide optimal conditions for playing quality, the degree of utilisation of the course, and management inputs.

  • The design, construction, management and administration of golf courses are economically and environmentally sustainable, for example with respect to plant nutrient requirements, water and energy use, drainage and control of weeds and plant diseases.

  • Golf courses contribute to improving the relationship between golf and ecosystems, enhance the natural and cultural values of the landscape and promote biodiversity.

R&D Sub-programmes

It is apparent that the golf and turfgrass industry faces a number of local and international challenges, all of which will need concerted and collective solutions, underpinned by robust, applied science. To meet the challenges the sector has to face STERF has created four international and trans-disciplinary R&D sub-programmes, including:


  • Integrated pest management;
  • Sustainable water management;
  • Turfgrass winter stress management, 
  • Multifunctional use of golf facilities.

Progress in these programme areas will ccollectively lead to improvements in the quality of managed turfgrass areas as well as economic and environmental gains for the industry. The key objectives of the programmes are to coordinate design and running of R&D activities, and to manage the eeffective dissemination of outputs (new knowledge) through channels and formats which are easily accessible to end-users. STERF shall play a key role expanding the programmes on an international level.

Integrated pest management
New regulations at national, and international levels related to the turfgrass industry are becoming more demanding. A good example is the EU Directive on sustainable use of pesticides including strategies for integrated pest management. STERF together with the Nordic park and golf sector, universities, research institutions and authorities takes responsibility for ensuring that R&D activities that are important for integrated pest management are coordinated and executed and that new knowledge is delivered.

Sustainable water management
Water is essential to secure the future of the turf industry and the livelihoods of many rural communities that depend upon it. Working with industry and leading research institutes, STERF’s goal is to provide science-based information to practitioners and stakeholders on integrated water management in turf. This will improve management practices relating to both irrigation and drainage systems; help protect environmental water quality and support the industry to adapt to future changes in rainfall and climate variability on water resources.

Turfgrass winter stress management
Winter damage is the foremost reason for dead grass, reducing the aesthetic and functional value of turf. UN-IPCC climate scenarios predict that due to high precipitation and unstable temperature, ice and water damage will become the most important cause of winter damage in the future. This is a complex but high priority area for STERF, as it has been estimated that about 70% of Nordic golf courses suffer from winter damage each year, and that the associated average annual costs per golf course are €35 000-40 000. STERF will take responsibility for developing strategic expertise and new knowledge to avoid and manage such damage.

Multifunctional use of golf facilities
Multifunctional golf courses can contribute to the achievement of international and national environmental targets and help improve people’s health and quality of life by providing facilities for active outdoor recreation. Through STERF´s R&D programme within multifunctional facilities, the Nordic area can become a model region as regards multifunctional golf courses and collaborations between different interests in society. Four central research and development areas has been identified; (1) the everyday landscape and peri-urban nature, (2) nature and culture, (3) dialogue and cooperation, and (4) business promotion.

Programme coordinators
Programme coordinators appointed by STERF are, together with STERF board and director, responsible for developing STERF R&D-programmes.Overarching duties to be fulfilled by the programme coordinators are:

  • to be a ‘Champion’ or nominal lead for their programme;
  • to make sure that the programme has a suitable mix of activities, not only research but other industry-linked initiatives too, including for example meetings, workshops, and media outputs;  
  • to help share programme workload, and;
  • to take ‘ownership’ of the activities/initiatives that need to be developed over the next 3 years.