Recycled Materials Study

Purpose of Study

  • To investigate the viability of use of recycled materials in golf construction and encourage their use wherever practical.
  • To provide a source for finding information on recycled materials for EIGCA members and the wider golf industry.
  • To provide general information on quantities of material required.

Summary of Study to Date

The study confirmed that potential exists for the use of recycled materials in golf course construction and highlights areas where they can be effectively used. The list of available materials and their uses is attached.

Overall, it was concluded that there are limited ways that a significant difference can be made. The majority of material used in golf construction is aggregate, with tight particle specifications; such as 10-20mm gravel, 2-6mm grit, consistent medium coarse sands and bunker sands. In situations such as drainage backfill, recycled aggregates can and are being used, but for green construction the risk of inconsistency of the recycled aggregates currently available represents too great a risk, often accompanied by increased costs.

The potential reduction in use of new raw materials is, therefore, quite limited as a percentage of the total amount used. Although recycling technology will improve, it is difficult to see commercially viable alternatives emerging for green construction in the short to mid-term. That is not to say that recycled materials should not be used, just that the overall impact of their use will be limited in effect.

In late 2008, the Institute’s membership and industry partners were sent details and asked to provide further information on their experiences of the use of recycled materials. These responses have been included in the overall summary.

Amounts of Sands and Gravels Used In Construction

Part of the study was to look at a typical golf course to see how much sand and gravel was used in the construction. Golf courses are so variable that there is no such thing as a “typical” golf course, so it was decided to use a course being built in Northern Europe on agricultural land with relatively poor drainage and built to a good modern standard with full specification greens, a full drainage system, big tees which are all suitable for a hotel course or a busy members’ club.

The aim of this was to illustrate in an open way the extent of extracted material used and to give recycled material suppliers an idea of the volumes required to assist them in deciding if golf construction is suitable outlet for their materials.

The conclusion is that the volume of aggregates and sands represents a volume the equivalent of a football pitch dug down 2.5 metres. When this is compared to the overall size of the course being perhaps 50 hectares, it is a relatively modest amount, given the life of the work is probably more than half a century.

Typical 6200m golf project on inland site with clay soil Aggregates breakdown
Drainage Carpet (2-6mm Grit)
Area Depth Volume Density Tonnes
Greens (21 x 600 sq m greens) 12600 0.1 1260 2 2520 Total Tonnes 2520
Rootzone Mix (USGA 2004)
Greens (21 x 600 sq m greens) 12600 0.3 3780 1.5 5670
Tees (Allow 400 on average plus 3000sq m for practice 7000 0.15 1050 1.5 1575 Total Tonnes 7245

Typical 6200m golf project on inland site with clay soil Aggregates breakdown
Sand Cap Sand (Medium/Fine Sand)
Area Depth Volume Density Tonnes
Assume 2000 sq m per hole including practice tees 44000 0.05 2200 1.6 3520 Total Tonnes 3520
Bunker Sand
Allow 80 bunkers average 50 sq m 4000 0.075 300 1.6 480 Total Tonnes 480


Summary and collation of responses to date

The following table is a summary of the findings so far. It is intended to continue to update the table as new materials are used or developed. It is recognised that it is not comprehensive, but it has been compiled after consultation with the membership.

Typical 6200m golf project on inland site with clay soil Aggregates breakdown
Material Use Popularity Suitability
Wood Chips Path Surfaces Limited Not great as they tend to float away and also rot.
Wood Chips Mulches new planting Widespread Good
Wood For timber structures Occasional, especially sleepers. Good
Wood Pulp Erosion Control Products Increasingly common Good
Glass Path Bases Limited Good
Glass Path surfaces Limited Possible, but expensive
Glass Bunker Sand Limited Possible, but expensive Scorch problems?
Glass Blinding Layer In Green Construction Rare Reported to work well with good quality. Availability difficult.
Glass Drainage Backfill Rare Reported to work well with good quality. Availability difficult.
Tyres as Crushed Rubber Turf Stabilisation Common on established courses but not on new constructions Good but surprisingly expensive.
Plastic From Bottles Path Edging Widespread Good
Plastic From Bottles Grass Reinforcement:egg box Limited Good
Plastic From Bottles Course Furniture Widespread Good
Plastic From Wheelie Bins Drains Increasing (Aquadyne) Good
Carpet Bi-products Beneath lake liners Widespread Good
Bunker Faces Experimental Too rare to comment
Composted Green Waste Rootzone More common but consistency and stability issues. Increasing, but still a very small proportion of the market
Composted Green Waste Planting Common Good
Composted Green Waste Organic Amendment On Fairways Increasingly common on established courses. Good
Recycled Aggregates Path Bases More common Good
Land Drainage Where financially viable Good but quality control vital
Animal and Bird Manure Organic Fertiliser Unusual Nutrient release very unpredictable compared to inorganic alternatives.
Coir Peat Organic component in green construction Rare Alternative to sphagnum peat. Similar cost but limited availability.
Coconut Bi-product Lake edging material Occasional but effective Good

Golf Course Design
Sustainability