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Flamboyant shoes and demi-pliés: The rigors of turfgrass research

July 3, 2018

By Mary Hightower
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fast facts:

  • Testing wear on sports turf can be taxing
  • Research on golf turf required simulating 30 rounds on 128 plots

(310 words)

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – So, how exactly do you simulate 30 rounds of golf on 128 turfgrass plots? With grad students.

“Backbreaking work,” is the phrase Doug Karcher, professor-horticulture and turfgrass researcher for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, used to describe the rigors of this research. “We bought all of our research techs a pair of shoes with a sole that was fairly aggressive.” 

5-19-2018 Shoes
A sample of tested golf shoes. (U of A System Division of Agriculture photo by Mike Richardson)

The testers were sent out to the plots in the morning striding and squatting in imitation of golfers walking and picking up their balls; a ritual that at times looked something like a conga line with rainbow feet.

“The golf shoes we wore to implement the treatments were rather ‘flamboyant’,” said grad student Dan Sandor. “The shoes were predominantly a royal blue color, accented with bright orange toes and heels coupled with lime-green shoe laces. Way too colorful for probably anyone of our group, or even just for regular golf play in general.”

Karcher said: “People were slowing down from the road to watch.”

“I know for some, repeatedly bending down -- i.e., essentially doing squats / working out --at that hour in the morning was not ideal and the effects of the ‘exercise’ were felt and expressed later on in the afternoon, and sometimes even the next day,” Sandor said. “However, it seemed to be a fun group exercise and clearly a ‘non-scientific’ method to determine who was the more fit or in-shape of our team.”

The tests were something of a flashback for grad student Michelle Wisdom, who is currently working on research about pollinators.

“It was like we'd been dropped into a ballet class,” she said. “I remember floating from one plot to the next, practicing my demi-plié although after several minutes I think ‘PLODDING’ and ‘TRIPPING’ and ‘COLLAPSING’ might be better terms for what was going on,” she said. “We had fun, though, because that group of people always had fun together.”

To learn more about turfgrass research visit

About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.  

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.   

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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126