Spring is almost here and the excitement is high at the prospect of warmer temperatures so we can get back out on the beloved golf courses once again. But have you ever stopped to consider what types of grass you play your golf games on?
A lot of thought, planning, effort, and time goes into creating a golf course. Selecting the right grass varieties to be used throughout a course is one of the biggest considerations to be made.
Golf Course Grasses: Considerations
Golf course grasses, commonly referred to as turfgrass, have a large impact on a player’s golfing experience. A number of grass types are used on golf courses, each with its own pros and cons. The types of grasses differ from region to region by their ability to withstand both cold and heat.
When selecting grass for a golf course there are many factors to take into consideration, such as:
- The region’s climate
- Where on the golf course the grass is to be planted (fairway, greens, tee boxes)
- How much traffic the grass can withstand
- How quickly the grass can repair itself
- The soil type(s) of the course
The grasses a golf course selects will need to:
- Withstand the full range of temperatures in that region (heat and cold)
- Be tough and withstand heavy foot traffic without breaking
- Be resilient – golf course grasses often need to be cut at very low levels to give players a better golfing experience
Common Grasses Used on Golf Courses
Bermuda is drought resistant, resilient, and repairs itself quickly. You can commonly find Bermuda on putting greens due to its fast recovery rate.
On golf courses it is important to have varying lengths of grass around the course. Bermuda is very receptive to being mowed at a variety of heights, making it a top contender.
While Bermudagrass is one of the most popular grasses planted on golf courses in warmer regions, bentgrass can withstand colder temperatures and is a frontrunner in colder regions.
Bentgrass is widely used by golf courses that experience a distinct annual season change and is commonly found in areas with cool summers and in coastal regions. This grass variety is commonly found in the Pacific Northwest and Northeast.
Bentgrass has the ability to withstand heavy traffic and doesn’t require a lot of water to grow. It grows short, thick, even, and flat, which is perfect for both putting greens and fairways. Its short growth allows it to be mowed lower without harming the grass, further enhancing the player experience. The main drawback to bentgrass is that is cannot withstand the heat.
While Zoysia has been used throughout the United States for many years, it has only recently started to become popularly used on golf courses, especially in southern areas like Georgia and Florida. Sugarloaf, a private golf club in Duluth, Georgia, recently renovated its golf course with NG Turf’s Zeon® Zoysia for its tees and fairways.
Zoysiagrass is a warm season grass that is heat, drought, and shade tolerant, and can withstand heavy traffic. It can be seen in golf courses with warm climates where water is limited. While you are unlikely to find zoysia on the greens, it is ideal for tee boxes and fairways.
Zoysia is a very adaptable grass that has good results in areas with unpredictable climates and weather changes. Zeon Zoysia specifically has a lot of attractive qualities such as holding its color longer throughout the winter and greening up quicker in the spring.
Poa annua grass is almost exclusively used on golf courses along the West Coast of the United States. Poa annua is a warm season grass and is typically less durable than other varieties. The primary perk of this particular grass variety is it can thrive at extremely low mowing heights to create smooth putting surfaces. The downside of Poa annua is its shallow roots which is problematic in areas with low rainfall as it would need to be hand watered making it less durable and hard to manage.
Poa annua is more tolerant of low-light environments and more traffic tolerant than creeping bentgrass, so using this grass variety would make sense in certain circumstances.
The most widely known example of Poa annua in golf is its use on the putting greens at the famous Pebble Beach Golf Resort.
Kentucky bluegrass is a cool season grass that is typically used just off fairways on a lot of courses, regardless of climate. Kentucky bluegrass has very hardy properties and can thrive in most environments. It is low maintenance, durable, and has an excellent capacity for self-repair, allowing it to withstand a lot of play. Kentucky bluegrass tends to do well when left to grow longer, making it an excellent candidate for roughs, hazards, and fairways.
Perennial ryegrass can be found on almost any cool summer region golf course. Perennial ryegrass is a cool season grass with a very fine texture, which allows for use in a variety of areas around golf courses. In northern areas, it is not unusual to find perennial ryegrass used on all areas of the golf course, to include tees, fairways, roughs, and greens.
Ryegrass grows extremely fast and has a desirable, deep green color. The main downside to ryegrass is that it does not spread quickly, so repairs require more work than grasses that spread by rhizomes.
Fescue is a cool season grass that can withstand colder temperatures and some degree of heat, making it a perfect for areas in the transition zone. Fescue can be cut short and used in fairways or used in the naturalized areas of the golf course. Fescue tolerates heat, drought, and shade exceptionally well.
While Bermuda and bentgrass are the two most commonly used grass varieties used on greens, different conditions require different turfgrasses to be used in niche areas of golf courses.
When selecting what turfgrass varieties to use on your golf course, be sure to consider:
- Traffic Tolerance (which varies by fairway, greens, tee boxes)
- Water Availability
- Soil Conditions
- Sun Exposure