University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota


Science of (the) GreenSM Initiative: An Overview

The University of Minnesota's College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences already has a successful Turfgrass Research and Outreach Center, which consists of approximately 10 acres devoted to turfgrass research under the direction of Drs. Brian Horgan and Eric Watkins. The site includes both a USGA-specification research green and a native soil research green. A recently installed automated rainout shelter can be used for research on turfgrass water use and drought tolerance. Runoff facilities also track pesticide and fertilizer runoff and inform strategies to reduce their movement to adjacent land.

The college's expertise is complemented by University strength and experience in civil and mechanical engineering, management, public health, robotics, kinesiology, urban planning, landscape architecture, environmental policy and other fields, bringing a holistic approach to the concept of sustainable golf course design and operations.

History of Les Bolstad Golf Course

Opened in 1928, the Les Bolstad Golf Course is a classic, 18-hole championship course used by students, faculty, alumni and the community. The Course began as a cow pasture and was transformed by W.R. Smith, who was also known as "Mr. Golf" at the University of Minnesota and throughout state. Three years later, in 1931, University faculty members gathered support to build a clubhouse, which is still standing today.

As one of the last remaining green spaces on campus, the Course is enjoyed by members of the University community: children learning to play golf, alumni returning to the University and current students studying turfgrass research. Legends such as Tom Lehman and Les Bolstad have navigated their way around its tight fairways, ancient trees and elevated greens.

University of Minnesota Recreation and Wellness has successfully operated the Course since 2009 and maintains it as a vital part of the University and community.

Proposed Turf Demonstration Area

Please take a moment to view the proposed turf demonstration area that would be a part of the Les Bolstad Golf Course renovation. The demostration area would be located on the southwest end of the course near Hole #1 and would be comprised of areas dedicated to conducting research on fairway and green species varieties, bunker construction and sand types, and green construction. Click on the image for an enlarged view of the proposed demonstration area.

Course Renderings

Below are some proposed renderings of various holes at Les Bolstad Golf Course. Check back periodically for more updates.

Hole #3 - Rendering 1

Hole 3 Redesign - Option 1

Hole #3 - Rendering 2

Hole 3 Redesign - Option 2

Meet the Project Team

  • Brian Horgan

    Associate Professor
    Department of Horticultural Science

    Dr. Horgan's research interests focus on the fate and transport of pesticides and nutrients, water conservation strategies, and low-input turfgrass systems. Horgan's most recent award recognizing excellence in the turfgrass industry was the prestigious Minnesota Golf Course Superintendents Association President's Award. He is past chair of the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program advisory committee, science editor for Turf News, and past chair of the Turfgrass Science division of the Crop Science Society. In addition to his participation in various state and regional turf conferences within the United States, Horgan has taught soil fertility and plant nutrition in Sweden, Norway, Turkey, Hong Kong, China, and New Zealand. He has taught for the GCSAA since 2006.

    In addition, Dr. Horgan outreaches to the community as a Turfgrass Extension Specialist. The position gives him opportunity to interact with the industry and facilitate educational programs designed to meet the needs of the state. He is a faculty advisor to the student chapter of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (also known as Turf Club).

  • Matt Magers

    Major Gifts Officer
    College of Food, Agricultural & Natural Resource Sciences

    Matt Magers' professional life started nearly 25 years ago in the golf industry as an intern with the Minnesota Golf Association. After five years with the MGA he moved west for ten fun and fulfilling years with the Northern California Golf Association in Pebble Beach, CA; the last six as assistant executive director. Later Matt stayed on the Monterey Peninsula transitioning into the philanthropic world in 2009 as the first major gifts officer for Stevenson School also in Pebble Beach. Since returning to his alma mater, the University of Minnesota, in September of 2012 he has become a leading participant in the transformation of the campus' golf facility into a living research laboratory for sustainable practices to assist the golf industry worldwide.

  • Caley Conney

    Director of Alumni Relations
    University Recreation and Wellness

    Caley has worked for Recreation and Wellness (RecWell) since October of 2011. She enjoys building relationships with current and future alumni and hosting various RecWell alumni tournaments and social gatherings. She is excited to be assisting the Science of (the) Green initiative through her efforts to cultivate relationships with individuals interested in learning more about the project's details.

An Industry at a Crossroads

The golf industry needs a sustainable business philosophy that provides long-term benefits to the communities and ecosystems where they are located. This change must start at the industry's very foundation—the physical land on which the game is played. With virtually no new courses being sited nationwide, a growing focus is on the renovation of existing facilities to address environmental stewardship, social responsibility and economic viability.

Since its arrival to the United States in the late 1800s and the first golf course building boom of the 1920s, golf has provided lifelong recreational opportunities and enjoyment for millions. Each year, nearly 26 million Americans play at more than 15,000 (about 75 percent of which are public) facilities nationwide.

But golf is more than a game.

Golf courses supply their communities with many benefits. They provide filters for rain and storm water to replenish aquifers, protect topsoil from wind and water erosion, provide wildlife habitat, offer opportunities for outdoor physical activity and contribute to local economies.

Beyond its sport and recreational value, golf is a major industry that generates jobs, economic development and tax revenues for communities throughout the country. The United States golf economy generated an estimated $69 billion in goods and services in 2011, surpassing other leisure activities, such as spectator sports ($33 billion) and the performing arts ($15 billion). Golf also is a major philanthropic vehicle, with a charitable impact of $3.9 billion in 2011.

Today, the game, and thus the industry, is at a crossroads. According to the Environmental Institute for Golf, economic, environmental and regulatory pressures continue to rise. Regulations pertaining to water quality and the costs of doing business are growing. At the same time, restrictions on land and water use are increasing as populations concentrate in urban areas.

Advancing Research-based Sustainability for the Golf Industry

Modified maintenance practices alone are not enough to help the golf industry toward its goal of greater sustainability. Research-proven turfgrass varieties, innovative irrigation systems, improved land-use practices, development and implementation of robotic maintenance equipment and other sustainable golf course technologies will inform the future of the sport. In addition to advancing the game of golf, these research results will have broad application for policymakers, land management professionals, urban planners, homeowners and others.

Protecting Natural Resources

The golf industry faces intense regulation to control inputs and protect natural resources. New research to protect the environment will be an important resource for turfgrass managers as they make changes to increase environmental stewardship. Research initiatives could include water quality protection, storm water management, recycled water use, alternative turfgrass species and change in irrigation water delivery design.

Breeding New Grass Species

It's important to breed new species of grasses that need less water, pesticides and fertilizers. Developing low-input turfgrass varieties for cold climates will have an impact far beyond Minnesota, as nearly half of the public golf courses in the United States are in the northern climates of the Upper Midwest and New England. Research questions include breeding for greater stress tolerance and pest resistance, improved drought tolerance and more wear resistance while maintaining a functional playing surfaces.

Golf and the Economy

Golf courses are challenged to generate revenue that matches expenses. Since the last recession, deferred maintenance costs have sky-rocketed; this is in addition to the fact that nearly 4,000 golf courses built in the 80's and 90's are due for renovation (80% of which are daily fee and public). The renovation and long-term research conducted will focus on maximizing maintenance and renovation efficiencies and generating a return on investment.

Collaborative research with other departments across the University could include the development of new business and marketing models for leisure industries as well as the promotion of public health through greater access to green space, to name just a few possibilities.

Partners of the Initiative

We thank the great organizations that have created vital, strategic partnerships with the Science of (the) GreenSM initiative.

University of Minnesota course reno to incorporate new research programme
October 8, 2014, by Sean Dudley

TurfNet RADIO podcast: with Brian Horgan, talking nutrient management
October 2, 2014, on TurfNet RADIO

Golf courses, green? In a new sense, yes
June 17, 2014, by Dr. Brian Horgan

Golf courses turn to water technology
June 5, 2014, by Elizabeth Dunbar

KFAN "Tee to Green" with Dan Cole
June 5, 2014 on KFAN Radio

Support the Science of (the) GreenSM Initiative

We seek industry and individual partners to help us create this one-of-a-kind research facility and living laboratory for turfgrass and sustainability research. For more information about how you can get involved and support the initiative, please contact:

To learn more about our research
Brian Horgan, PhD
Turfgrass Extension Specialist
College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
(612) 624-0782

To learn more about how you can help
Matt Magers '95
Major Gifts Officer
College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
(612) 626-0902