The changing sport of golf and its future will be examined as part of a new five-year research partnership between the University of Minnesota and the U.S. Golf Association. The agreement, announced Monday, will allow both parties to identify and fund cross-disciplinary projects in design, maintenance, business, operations and economics.

 The College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) has worked with USGA for 30 years on individual projects, but the partnership will streamline and expand the relationship to include other University colleges such as the Carlson School of Management, the College of Science and Engineering  and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

There is no overall amount of funding committed, but grants will be provided on an individual project basis, said Brian Horgan, Extension turf grass specialist and CFANS professor who is leading the partnership.

 ”One of the primary goals for USGA and the University of Minnesota is to create and train the next generation of scientists out of this, and that’s both undergraduate and graduate students,” he said.

Key to the future research will be the University’s Les Bolstad Golf Course in St. Paul, established in 1929 and open to the public. Horgan said it will still function as a golf course, but it will change from being just a traditional recreation facility to becoming a living, learning laboratory for certain research projects.

For example, that may involve choosing three holes to grow and study how a different turf grass species performs for a period of time, Horgan said, or using sensors or other technology to study the effectiveness of water and herbicides used on a different part of the course.

“We will use the course to figure out business and economic models that are related back to resource conservation strategies,” Horgan said, “and do so in a way that we’re really being deliberate and reaching out to the next generation golfer.”

USGA officials said they are looking especially for solutions related to the game’s cost, the time it takes to play, and golfer enjoyment, as well as additional insights.

 “We firmly believe the impact of our work will transcend golf by identifying core concepts and solutions that can be applied to all sports and public green spaces,” said Rand Jerris, USGA senior managing director of public services.

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