KEY MESSAGE: Publically available SNP array increases the marker density for genotyping of forage crop, Lolium perenne . Applied to 90 European ecotypes composed of 716 individuals identifies a significant genetic-geographic correlation. Grassland ecosystems are ubiquitous across temperate and tropical regions, totalling 37 % of the terrestrial land cover of the planet, and thus represent a global resource for understanding local adaptations to environment. However, genomic resources for grass species (outside cereals) are relatively poor. The advent of next-generation DNA sequencing and high-density SNP genotyping platforms enables the development of dense marker assays for population genetics analyses and genome-wide association studies. A high-density SNP marker resource (Illumina Infinium assay) for perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) was created and validated in a broad ecotype collection of 716 individuals sampled from 90 sites across Europe. Genetic diversity within and between populations was assessed. A strong correlation of geographic origin to genetic structure was found using principal component analysis, with significant correlation to longitude and latitude (P < 0.001). The potential of this array as a resource for studies of germplasm diversity and identifying traits underpinning adaptive variation is highlighted.