Synthetic pitches for hockey have been around since the 1980s and have developed from a traditional sand-filled surface to include a sand-dressed solution in the late 90s alongside the international standard water based systems.
The performance of any surface will be determined by the quality of the yarn, the density and height of the carpet pile and whether it requires sand infill to add weight to stabilise the carpet or water to reduce friction. Most carpets are now made from Polyethlene LSR (Low Slide Reaction) and vary in height from around 12mm to 20mm depending on whether they require any sand infill or a watering system. The density of the carpet in terms of the number of fibres per square will also determine how much sand infill is required or the water retention rates. Overall the pile height and density of the carpet will determine the standard of the surface and how it performs in terms of ball roll, levels fo friction and ball bounce. The type of shock pad underneath the carpet will also impact on the performance and feel of any pitch especially the ball bounce.
With hockey players requiring a true ball roll, ball bounce to enable 3D skills and lower levels of friction most clubs and schools favour a sand-dressed pitch over traditional sand-filled (lower ball bounce and more friction) and water (more expensive to install and maintain). With many sand-dressed surfaces performing more and more like water based pitches due to the same yarns being used and carpet density it is why fewer water based pitches are being installed.
For those requiring a pitch which can be used for multi sports including tennis and football it is recommended to install a carpet with more sand infill. This will improve the stability of the carpet and help with the greater impact caused by tennis and football usage.