Five WSU turfgrass management students traveled with their advisor, Bill Johnston, to the UK early this summer. Along with students and faculty from North Carolina State University, the students visited golf courses, cricket pitches, and football (or soccer) and rugby fields.
Gareth Phillips of Reaseheath College, about halfway between London and the Scottish border, hosted the Americans and led them on tours.
One of the stops was the Sports Turf Research Institute, where students got a first-hand look at research plots and soil chemistry and plant pathology labs. STRI supervises the grass courts at Wimbelton in order to maintain year-to-year consistency of the world-renowned tennis venue.
One of the famously fierce barriers on the Aintree Racecourse, home of the Grand National Steeplechase.
The group also visited Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool, the home of England’s Grand National steeplechase. Aintree is home to some of the most difficult jumps and barriers in the world and is famous for striking fear into even the most redoubtable jockey.
The highlight of the trip was a visit to the golf course where it all started, St. Andrew’s. Located in Fife, Scotland, the group received a two-hour tour courtesy of the course’s superintendent. Although the exact origins are unknown, golf is thought to have originated in Scotland during the latter Middle Ages.
Nearby is Duke’s Course, where a team of WSU students, plus Johnston as a requisite sixth, won the Quaich (pronounced “quake”) Cup against an international team.
L-R: Kyle Thomas, Jerry Langreder, Bill Johnston, Shaun Knutzen, Marcus Harness, Chris Consienne. Johnston was the team’s study-abroad faculty advisor and is a professor of Crop and Soil Sciences.
Overall, Johnston said, turf in the U.K. is very similar to that in the Pacific North West’s coastal regions, as the two areas share a similar maritime climate. But, said Johnston, “The Brits are ahead of us in terms of ecology. They don’t care if the grass is brown as long as it plays fairly.”
The study abroad experience, said Johnston, resulted in new friendships, a great cultural experience, and a very good chance that the trip will be repeated in coming years.
Click here for more information on WSU’s program in turfgrass management.