Super Bowl LVII field had roots in golf

Growing Golf
State Farm Stadium Super Bowl LVII
Super Bowl LVII turf was developed with USGA funding

Of the 113 million people who watched Super Bowl LVII some may have thought the field looked good enough to play golf on.

That’s because Arizona’s State Farm Stadium was laid with turf-grass developed with funding from the United States Golf Association.

The Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs played the NFL Championship game on Tahoma 31, a hybrid of Bermuda and rye grasses developed by Dr. Yanqi Wu, Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences at Oklahoma State University.

The NFL chose the grass for its durability, tolerance to cold and drought and ability to recover quickly from heavy traffic.

Super Bowl officials told ESPN that it needed to stand up to weeks of pre-match and half-time show rehearsals plus the constant stop-start action of the big game.

Nick Pappas, NFL field surface director, said: “We believe that, right now, this is one of the strongest varieties of hybrid Bermuda grass.”

Wu began work on Tahoma 31 in 2006 and it took researchers until 2018 to develop the exact variant used at Super Bowl LVII.

State Farm Stadium is the home field of the Arizona Cardinals and was made up of Tifway 419. It took four weeks and 30 people to rip up the previous turf and replace it with 600 rolls of Tahoma 31, each measuring 40 feet long and 3.5 feet wide, for the Super Bowl game, said Pappas.

For more than a century, the USGA has funded research into the development of better grasses for golf. Nearly $50 million has been invested in roughly 800 research projects since 1982.

Oklahoma State University, where Wu leads the turf breeding program, has been funded by the USGA since 1986.

“The USGA has been critical for the turf industry. Most of the research that the turf industry has done, especially on the sports turf side, a lot of it is drawn from what they research in golf,” said Pappas.