By clearly defining a wide range of performance criteria, along with appropriate parameters that can be measured using a suitable method of test then the overall quality can be more readily stated.
Depending upon the Performance Quality Standards being used (for example football, cricket etc.), there will be an indication of where the measurements should ideally be taken, as well as at what time of year within the relevant documentation.
For example, within the football Performance Quality Standards, measurements can generally be taken anywhere on the pitch and at any time during the year.
A method of test is usually a particular British Standard that can be used to give an accurate and reproducible measurement. Methods of test can also range quite significantly in complexity and cost of equipment.
An example of a simple, cheap, yet effective method of test is given below.
Drawing of a quadrat frame
This is a quadrat frame and it is commonly used in grassland surveys. It is ideal for estimating the percentage cover of grasses, weeds, bare areas, total ground cover etc.
A quadrat frame with a typical size of 0.75m x 0.75m is divided into 100 equal squares, with each square measuring 75mm x 75mm.
Full details of all methods of test are included elsewhere in this section: PQS Methods of Test.
To address the issue of having simplified field tests that can be carried out in a convenient manner, other suggested practical methods of test are given within each Performance Quality Standard, where applicable.
Whilst it can be considered that the ideal situation is to undertake a test in accordance with the main method, realistically this will not always be possible or practical.
To encourage the practice of assessing a facility on a regular basis, simple and less time consuming methods are therefore suggested within each document.
For example, on a golf course this could include measuring the depth of thatch and root depth periodically, at the same time as when holes are changed on the greens. A special journey need not be undertaken to carry out such measurements and this is probably what mostly occurs in many cases anyhow.
It is recommended, however, that facilities are tested in accordance with the main method of test over a regular time interval. This will provide a local benchmark figure, against which interim measurements (taken using other methods) can be compared.
By having a set of clearly defined, objective parameters that can be readily measured this allows for suitable comparisons to be made between facilities at the same location, for example between greens on the same golf course. Alternatively, it may be between different facilities that are geographically distant, especially when comparing between different local authorities.
It is important to bear in mind that the cost of maintaining a particular Performance Quality Standard for a facility will vary due to both the geographic location (longer growing season in the south of England compared with the north of Scotland) and also local financial arrangements. (BS 7370-03: 1991, 'Grounds Maintenance'. Part 3. Recommendations for maintenance of amenity and functional turf (other than sports turf)',British Standards Institution.)
A like-for-like comparison will not, therefore, always be possible; however, such differences could be factored in to any comparison.
As outdoor facilities are dynamic environments with changing conditions due to external influences, it is necessary for a manager, once an assessment has been carried out, to be able to rate the criteria to determine whether the pitch, on the whole, falls within a particular quality level.
Measurements taken during an assessment may not fall within the required range all of the time. If this is the case then, from a management viewpoint, it is necessary to know how the overall quality is to be deduced.
The individual performance standards and parameters, within the Performance Quality Standards, will stay the same as they are the benchmark against which local measurements are compared.
It is the interpretation of a quality level that needs to be realistic, practical and manageable. A rating system for determining overall quality is covered elsewhere in this section.