Arkansas Horticulture Researchers Court Success With State's Only Lawn Tennis Facility
Tennis players in Arkansas can now try their game on the same surface that makes champions at Wimbledon: grass courts.
The lawn tennis courts are part of the work being done by turfgrass researchers working in Fayetteville for University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. Whether on a golf course, football field or racetrack, researchers must be able to gauge how much wear the turf can handle and still be maintained to sustain competition and safety.
"We have been tinkering with lawn tennis at our research facility for three years," said Doug Karcher, turfgrass researcher and horticulture professor for the Dale Bumpers College of Agriculture, Food, and Life Sciences.
Grass requires player focus
Karcher, a competitive player himself, said that "grass makes a great tennis surface as it stays relatively cool in the summer and is easy on the joints. In addition, the grass surface adds strategic elements to the game as shots with spin and pace are very reactive to the surface and produce less predictable bounces that require additional player focus."
Last year was the first season in which Karcher attempted to ramp up play to see how much wear a grass court in our region could withstand.
"Our lawn tennis court has performed well and has been playable most of the calendar year," he said. "It has not been terribly difficult to maintain, so there is potential for lawn tennis in our region, but I'm not sure how much weekly play a bermudagrass court can handle."
However, Karcher said "the few matches a week I was capable of lining up was not enough to substantially wear out the court, so we launched the U of A Lawn Tennis Center in hopes that we will get a lot more play on the court."
Karcher and also added permanent fencing and a second court. This fall, the courts will be over-seeded with perennial ryegrass, which is the same species used at The Championships at Wimbledon. "Playing on grass is a common bucket list item among tennis enthusiasts - an item that can now get checked off in northwest Arkansas."
"I am aware of lawn tennis facilities in St. Charles City, Iowa, and Pontiac, Michigan, but I'm not aware of any other specific tennis facilities with grass courts outside of the northeastern U.S., Florida and the West Coast," he said.
Make reservations online
The U of A Lawn Tennis Center is available for public play and courts may be reserved at: https://horticulture.uark.edu/research-extension/turf/lawntennis.php.
For more information on turfgrass research, visit turf.uark.edu.
Douglas Edward Karcher, professor
Department of Horticulture
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