Guidelines for the Purchase and Supply of Top Dressings

What is a Top Dressing and where should it be used?


Fine Turf:   

Areas cut to below 5mm e.g. golf greens and bowling greensA blend of sand and organic amendment that has been finely screened (3mm maximum) and is generally heat treated.


Winter Games Pitches:       

Longer grass than fine turf e.g. football and rugby pitchesA screened sand/organic mix or washed and graded moist silica sand.



Golf fairways and cricket outfields

A compatible screened sand/organic mix or washed and graded moist silica sand.


Synthetic Pitches:

Any synthetic surface pitchDried, washed and graded silica sand


Summer Games                    

Cricket wicket and tennis courts

A blend of clay, silt and sand to give a Motty strength, loam is screened (4mm maximum) and can be heat treated.


What are the benefits of using Top Dressing?


  • Helps to maintain a smooth, true running surface
  • Improves mowing efficiency
  • Helps prevent the build-up of thatch
  • Enables control of organic matter content, water infiltration and aeration
  • Essential in the maintenance of rootzone depth
  • Improves germination in over-seeded areas
  • Improves or sustains appropriate soil texture

How to choose the right Top Dressing


  • Firstly, there is no such thing as a universally ‘good’ Top Dressing
  • Test and establish the existing profile of the green before selecting a Top Dressing. Over time a Top Dressing will add to and become part of the Rootzone, therefore, the two products must be compatible i.e. have similar composition and properties.
  • A quality Top Dressing supplier will want to test your greens before selling you the right product for your particular application.
  • Samples will be taken from the greens and tested to determine particle size distribution, pH and organic matter content.
  • This information is used to identify a suitable Top Dressing that is compatible with the existing rootzone.

The results of using a mis-matched Top Dressing


  • Layering problems – layers of different pore size systems within shallow depths of the rootzone.
  • Water retention
  • Reduction in porosity
  • Problems with the air/water balance
  • Rooting depth can be affected
  • By the time the problems become apparent they may be impossible to rectify

The 70/30 Myth


The use of generic terms such as 70/30 and 80/20 are common in the turfgrass industry but actually mean nothing.  Knowing the ratio of sand/soil does not tell the user anything about the quality of either the soil or the sand that has been used. 


  • A purchaser should request a precise analysis of the Top Dressing in terms of
  • Particle size
  • Amount of silt/clay
  • Organic matter content
  • Lime content



  • Frequent, light applications are recommended for the following reasons:
  • Promotes fast integration
  • Prevents layering
  • Avoids smothering grass when growth is slow (Spring and Autumn)
  •       Avoids significant disruption to play

Download the complete BRTMA Guidelines for the Purchase and Supply of Top Dressings

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