Natural vs synthetic turf: choose the best option for your project

Feb 21|Natural TurfBy John Neylan

Artificial or synthetic turf is becoming more prevalent and seen as a panacea. It is considered for reducing maintenance costs, water costs, providing more hours of use, and can tolerate bad weather better than natural turf.


It is essential to understand the difference between natural turf and synthetic turf to choose the best option for your project. 

In this blog, SPORTENG uncovers the characteristics of both solution to help you in this process. 

Is artificial/synthetic turf better than natural grass?

That’s a tough question and the answer is ‘yes and no’.

While all the major global sporting codes permit the use of artificial turf at national and international levels, most sportspeople seem to prefer playing on natural grass.

Outside of the USA, there are only a few examples where elite sports such as Association Football, NFL, Rugby Union, and Rugby League are played in a stadium on artificial turf. The reason for this is that elite venues have been purpose-built, with a highly specified rootzone mix, highly effective irrigation system, and premium maintenance equipment and supplies to ensure that the natural turf field can withstand the rigours of play.


However, artificial turf fields are common in the training grounds of elite clubs and local governments. The main reason is that they can tolerate a lot of use.

We consider that artificial turf fields are part of a city-wide strategy to addressing the increased usage of sports fields and the shortfall in training space, particularly evening weekday training hours under floodlights. The fields are available during and immediately after bad weather and cancellation are much less common unless the adverse weather brings other risks such as lightning.

Where individual clubs are making the decision to install artificial turf, the benefits are often:

  • Increased training times;
  • Low rate of cancellation regarding weekend matches;
  • Increased opportunities for growing revenue through food and drink sales and renting out the field.

If you need an all-weather surface that can tolerate high levels of use where the risks of cancellation are low, artificial turf fields provide a more resilient option than natural turf.

Why are there so many different types of artificial turf?

We’re not sure what the actual number of third-generation artificial turf products in the market actually is, but we’re sure the number is mind-boggling. Suppliers are constantly looking at ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors and provide products at different price points, so when receiving tenders for review, it’s worth paying attention to the details as a lower price option compared to a higher-priced option from the same supplier will always mean that quality is compromised somewhere. The same supplier will generally be able to present different products, at different price-points that all achieve the same thing, but:

  • Have different pile lengths;

  • Have different infill depths and sand rubber ratios;

  • Have different infill options;

  • Have different yarn (or fibre) quality;

  • Have different shockpad options.

Knowing what option is most appropriate to you, your site, and the level of use is the tricky part. We always recommend that an independent third party helps you to pick your way through the sales speak and select the most appropriate system.

Before proceeding with an artificial turf surface, make sure you have the usage demand to warrant it and when asking for tenders, be clear what quality you are seeking, what governing body approvals you will want to seek post-construction (we’ll talk about these in more detail in a later blog post) and remember that where costs vary for a similar ‘looking’ product, the quality will also vary somewhere, so choose wisely.


We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our synthetic turf series blog. Check out our other posts and if you’d like to discuss anything covered in this series in more detail, contact us.


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