Staying ahead of the game with effective drainage

Monira Matinin Drainage & Irrigation

An effective drainage system helps future-proof a pitch or green and can assist greenkeepers in ensuring playability is possible regardless of the season or weather conditions. In this article, Steve Curley, General Manager for Aggregate Industries looks at the benefits of using a secondary aggregate for drainage.

Not to be overlooked, effective drainage is a serious must when it comes to the successful design and management of golf courses, race courses and sports pitches.

Get it wrong and the water content of the turf can affect performance in terms of ball bounce. Poor drainage can also result in waterlogged greens and fairways, while inadequate moisture retention can lead to drought stress in periods of hot and dry weather.

Added to the equation is the UK's increasingly erratic weather which also plays a huge role on how drainage impacts courses and pitches, creating a common problem in sports pitch maintenance across the nation.

To combat this, 2017 saw the launch of a new innovation set to change the game when it comes to sports surfaces; Sportag®.

In summary, Sportag is a secondary aggregate which features a unique rounded shape and material properties, the result of a robust manufacturing process, which makes it the perfect solution for land drainage applications.

The lightweight aggregate is made from the fly ash generated by coal fired power stations. Using revolutionary technology the fly ash is transformed into small round pellets, which are then heated to 1,100°C. This creates a very hard pellet with a honeycombed internal structure of interconnecting voids within the aggregate, making it structurally robust yet lightweight - up to 50 per cent lighter than natural aggregate. The pellets formed are rounded in shape and range in size from 14 mm down to fines and are ready to use.

The secondary aggregate production process results in a superior, consistent, lightweight aggregate, providing six key benefits for sports facilities.


It's rounded shape and internal structure gives Sportag a hydraulic conductivity 10 times that of natural aggregates, allowing for water dispersion of 2.3ltr/hr. Its spherical shape ensures there are plenty of voids to allow fast water movement. This means it is particularly suited to golf courses, including slit trenches, gravel banding and Shelton Systems.

Reduce Soil Compaction

The lightweight composition of Sportag helps reduce compaction on site. Unlike gravel, it will not shatter on contact with moving equipment such as lawn mowers - and retains a hard, robust quality to ensure durability.

Moisture Retention

Sportag's composition allows for a 30% moisture retention rate which is perfect for reducing drought stress in hot or dry weather. Its ability to retain moisture also eliminates the brown striping that can occur when using gravel, ensuring healthier greens and fairways.


Having a high void ratio of 40%, ensures a greater degree of porosity, helping aid longevity, improving aeration and allowing roots to penetrate further, future-proofing the land.


It's round and lightweight nature also means that it is easily handled, flowing easily into position. Furthermore, being up to 50% lighter than a standard aggregate makes Sportag much less arduous to lay, reducing the risk of physical injury.


Finally, being a secondary aggregate and a fraction of the weight of standard aggregate, Sportag saves on natural resources, offering greater sustainability and reduced landfill. In this way, it also means transport and thus carbon footprint, given that users can use more lytag per load in comparison to standard aggregate.

In terms of installation, Sportag is placed by feeding a land drainage pipe into specific size trenches and backfilled with a secondary aggregate at pipe spacings of 400-500mm. The result is rapid drainage for established golf courses and, at wider spacings, it can used to drain football and rugby pitches.

At Wrexham FC, for example, Sportag was recently applied with trenches of 35mm wide, 500mm centres and at 300mm depth installed on the football pitch which were then backfilled with Sportag to within 25mm of ground level ready for topping off with sand. Quick and simple, the pitch was immediately available for use, damage to the green was minimal, therefore keeping disruption to a minimum.

In a sector where it is all about achieving the best result, it is vital for specifiers working in sports to ensure the most fitting surface material possible which alleviates any of the inherent issues of poor draining. By choosing Sportag they can be assured of the highest performance product to help players perform to their best.

For more information on Lytag call 01904 727922 or visit

Article Tags:
Drainage & irrigation