Turfgrasses from Pure Seed and Atlas Turf International Featured at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club, Host of the 2023 Ryder Cup
As the 2023 Ryder Cup approaches, the host venue, Marco Simone Golf & Country Club, stands ready with turfgrasses from Pure Seed and Atlas Turf International. For the first time in the competition’s history, the iconic duel between Europe and the United States will occur in Italy. When the 44th edition of the Ryder Cup begins in late September, the stage will be set with a complete portfolio of championship turfgrasses, including Pure Distinction Creeping Bentgrass, Pure Dynasty® Seeded Paspalum, and PureLinks Fescue.
Marco Simone, located in Guidonia just northeast of Rome, underwent a complete redesign in preparation for the Ryder Cup. Originally designed by Jim Fazio and opened in 1989, the golf course needed to be transformed to host the world’s largest golf competition. European Golf Design was selected for the job with lead architect Dave Sampson spearheading the redesign. For the turfgrass, the challenge entailed selecting the varieties best suited for the climate, possessing the ability to execute the designer’s vision, and most capable of delivering playability up to par with the legendary golf challenge.
The turfgrasses meeting the demanding criteria are nearly all developed by Pure-Seed Testing, distributed by Pure Seed, and co-marketed by Atlas Turf International. Pure Distinction Creeping Bentgrass is the greens selection. Tees, fairways, approaches, and collars feature Pure Dynasty Seeded Paspalum, and the roughs are Pure Links, a proprietary blend of tall and fine fescues.
“The Ryder Cup showcases the pinnacle of golfing excellence, where products are put to the ultimate test under the intense pressure of competition,” said John Holmes, president of Atlas Turf International. “It’s a testament to the quality, reliability, and performance of the Atlas Turf and Pure Seed products that they’ve earned their place on this grand stage.”
Pure Distinction for Greens
As a premium putting green grass, Pure Distinction is known for its smooth and true playing surface with dense, upright growth.
“The greens have been great,” said Sampson, who witnessed the turfgrasses under competitive conditions during the three previous Italian Opens hosted at Marco Simone since the completion of the redesign. “Every player has loved the greens and the roll that they have.”
In addition, Pure Distinction is heat and cold resistant, beneficial for the widely varying temperatures of Rome. The turfgrass has good disease resistance, excellent wear tolerance and offers quick recovery from injury.
Some of the many championship facilities featuring Pure Distinction include The Golf Course at Adare Manor in Ireland, Burning Tree Country Club in Connecticut, and The Club at Chatham Hills in Indiana.
“Pure Distinction’s vibrant light green color makes it perfect for European greens coupled with its aggressive deep root system and overall disease resistance,” said Crystal Rose-Fricker, president of Pure Seed and Pure-Seed Testing.
Pure Dynasty for Tees, Fairways, Approaches, and Collars
Pure Dynasty is an advanced blend and the only seeded paspalum product currently on the market. It shares genetics with the vegetative variety Platinum TE™ Paspalum, which was recently in the spotlight as the turfgrass of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar. Pure Dynasty delivers an exceptional turf surface with tighter density, heat and cold tolerance, improved disease resistance, and the sustainability advantages of drought tolerance and superior salt tolerance. Its versatility allows for the varying heights of cut of the tees, fairways, collars, and surrounds at Marco Simone.
Sampson previously selected Pure Dynasty for application wall-to-wall when he designed Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in Saudi Arabia. The venue has hosted multiple DP World Tour events where Pure Dynasty has stood the test of championship competition.
“We are very happy with the playability [of Pure Dynasty] and the way the ball sits up on the grass,” said Sampson. “Also the appearance aesthetically and how it pops against the cool season grasses.”
In addition to Royal Greens, Pure Dynasty is the turfgrass of choice at golf courses and sports fields on five continents.
“Since its introduction to the market less than ten years ago, Pure Dynasty has been selected for some of the most prestigious new golf courses around the world,” said Holmes. “Besides delivering outstanding performance and appearance, Pure Dynasty is nearly unmatched when it comes to sustainability.”
PureLinks for Roughs
Rounding out the turfgrass selection at Marco Simone is PureLinks fescue in the roughs. The specially designed blend of the highest-performing tall and fine fescue varieties delivers the desired characteristics of playability, color, disease and drought resistance, salt tolerance, and quick establishment.
“In terms of the rough, we always wanted the particular style and look of fescue,” said Sampson. “For playability, the rough is going to be deep, and it’s going to get juicy. And that is what they want. If you hit in the fairway, you’re rewarded.”
Sustainability factored into the entire redesign and specifically regarding the turfgrass.
“We’ve realized a 30 percent water savings by choosing the grasses we have and by getting a state-of-the-art irrigation system,” said Sampson.
The majority of the PureLinks fescue varieties selected are qualified by the Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance for demonstrating a statistically significant water saving potential across rigorous multi-year drought trials.
“The beauty of a golf course is in the different textures, colors, and heights of the vegetation that challenge the golfer and complement the aesthetics of the environment,” said Rose-Fricker. “These various turfgrasses bring different traits to the golf course palette, such as salt tolerance, disease resistance, a variety of textures, and beautiful green colors. Together, they create a unique golfing experience for the player and the spectator. From our perspective, it is a chance to showcase the different products we develop, produce, and market around the world in one event: the Marco Simone Ryder Cup.”
The Construction Process
Ryder Cup selected Marco Simone as a venue in 2015, and the redesign began in 2017. Among the challenges that Sampson faced were COVID-19 (which caused the original event date to be pushed from 2022 to 2023), archaeology, gas lines, and electric lines.
In addition to the Marco Simone 11th-century castle, which is an Italian national monument, the property also includes two sites of archaeological significance. The most prominent is the remains of a first-century Roman villa close to the tenth tee box. Working around these protected areas as well as the gas lines and arranging the burial of the five-pylon electrical line, added to the complexity of the job.
“For these reasons, this project seemed to throw out a few more challenges than others,” said Sampson. “You have to be flexible.”
Complicating the task even further are the unique requirements of designing a venue that will accommodate massive crowds of spectators and the hospitality areas essential to Ryder Cup sights.
Once these issues were resolved, the design was completed, and the site was prepped, seeding of the front nine holes took place in the summer of 2019. The back nine were seeded in 2020.
Three subsequent Italian Open championships and visits from the Ryder Cup captains of the European and United States teams gave the finished redesign ample opportunity for assessment.
“Zach Johnson, [captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team], said when he went over there that the golf course is going to challenge every shot in the book,” said Sampson, “and that, for me, is a great feat. It’s ultimately what you want to hear. This has been an amazing project to be involved with. Unbelievable. I count myself very fortunate.”
All of the turfgrasses featured at Marco Simone, with the exception of two components in the fescue blend, are products of Pure-Seed Testing, Inc. Developing innovative varieties since the 1970s, Pure-Seed Testing is the largest privately held grass seed researcher in the world with over 200 acres, ongoing research in over 20 countries, and over 1,000 experimental cultivars across 20 species in development. Atlas Turf International partners with Pure Seed to bring the highest quality and most innovative turfgrass products to projects worldwide.
Learn more about the Research and Development process of the turfgrasses selected for the Ryder Cup here.