USGA invests in water conservation with new recruit

USGA's Matteo Serena showing soil structure on a golf green

Matteo Serena has one of the most pressing jobs in turf – advancing the approach to water conservation for golf course owners and managers.

The newest recruit to the USGA’s Green Section research team will work alongside superintendents, researchers, allied golf associations, and other stakeholders to advance water conservation.

The USGA has spent more than $40m on turf-related research since 1921 and much of it focused on water, the critical resource that golf simply can’t live without.

“Without water, there’s nothing growing,” says Serena, Senior Manager of Irrigation Research and Services at the USGA, in a wide-ranging interview with Josh Sens of

A native of Northern Italy - a region with few golf courses and an arid climate - Serena talks about the challenges climate change, global warming and extreme weather pose to the golf industry.

His job is to help develop innovative solutions that can advance water conservation in golf, from breeding drought-tolerant grasses to cultivating water-resistant vegetation, naturalizing courses and reducing the acreage of irrigated fine and manicured turf.

“The less grass you have to water, the less water you have to use,” said Serena.

According to the USGA’s own figures on water usage, U.S. golf courses use more than 2 billion gallons of water per day.

Data from the Golf Course Superintendent’s Association of America shows that golf courses are improving their ability to conserve and manage water more effectively, bolstered by the roll out of Best Management Practice guides to improve and maximize efficiencies in all aspects of the golf course operation.

Serena studied plant biology at the University of Padua specialising in warm climate grasses, a career path that led to a doctorate at New Mexico State University and a research post at the University of California Riverside; from where the USGA headhunted him in 2022.

The same year, USGA CEO Mike Whan committed to invest $30 million over the next 15 years to further reduce golf’s water use by 45 percent.

The governing body already employs 13 expert agronomists based at field offices throughout the U.S.

Together with Green Section, they provide cutting-edge research, course and agronomy consultancy, industry-wide education and best-practice development.

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