If you are a keen golfer, you probably already know that keeping the golf grass in pristine condition takes a lot. Strict fertilizer, irrigation, and mowing schedules are carefully controlled and monitored by the turf manager, also known as the course keeper. Keep reading to find out what kind of grass do golf courses use.
Photo Credit Did you know that your golfing experience is heavily affected by the grass used on the golf course?
It also includes keeping all the playing areas at suitable standards for the golfers. However, before that can happen, the turf manager must pick an appropriate grass type for the golf course. So, what makes a turfgrass type suitable for golf courses?
Golf grass differs significantly from the synthetic or natural turf people use in homes. A considerable amount of thought goes into picking a turfgrass type for golf courses and putting greens, as it can vastly impact how golfers interact with the ball and the game’s outcome. Some critical factors to look for when picking golf grass are how fast it heals, how much foot traffic it can withstand, and how quickly it grows.
So, let’s now discuss the most common types of grass used on golf courses.
What To Look For In A Golf Grass?
Photo Credit The grass type can significantly affect rounds and how golfers interact with the ball.
You might be wondering why can’t you use regular grass on golf courses. Why are there different types of grass for golf courses, and what is the difference between common grass and golf grass? So, before I tell you about the different kinds of grass commonly used on golf courses, let’s quickly go over some of the main characteristics of golf grasses.
The Grass Must Withstand Local Weather
Every golf course in the world experiences different conditions depending on the local weather and climate. Furthermore, some golf courses experience varying weather conditions throughout the year due to seasonal changes and patterns. So, when choosing grass for a golf course or putting greens, the local weather must be kept in mind.
The grass must have adequate tolerance against the local high and low temperatures.
In addition, it needs to be able to withstand the local precipitation levels. Adaptability to local weather is one of the main reasons why different grasses are used in other places.
The Grass Must Be Resilient
When you plant a lawn at home, you can give your grass a little bit more time if it is damaged or just trying to survive. The grass will soon grow and recover from damage or weakness. However, this is not possible on golf course greens and courses.
The grass there needs to be cut regularly and low to the ground as it gives the golfers a better golfing experience. Moreover, it also makes it easy to move around on the course. So, when choosing turf for a golf course, one must ensure it is solid and durable.
The Grass Must Be Tough
Another critical factor to remember when selecting turfgrass for a golf course is considering how much foot traffic it can withstand. The grass on a golf course has to face much more harsh conditions when it comes to traffic than the grass on a home lawn.
For example, when in a home yard, you will be careful not to pass again and again on the same spots, and even if it is not the case, home lawns generally do not get much traffic. However, it is another story for golf course greens and fairways.
These areas receive much more foot traffic than a typical home lawn, so grass there needs to be tough and able to receive and recover from regular and heavy traffic.
Things To Consider When Picking Golf Grass
Photo Credit The best grass is the one that will create the best conditions and grow year-round.
You must have heard: one size doesn’t fit all. The same is valid for golf grass! Several factors must be considered when choosing turfgrass for a golf course. For example,
The soil type is the first and foremost thing you must consider when selecting grass for a golf course. Soil is usually categorized into six classes, all with unique properties and requirements, and they all suit different types of turfgrass best.
If your golf course is located in a region with chalky soil, you will need to find a grass species that grows best in alkaline soils. Chalky soils have a high concentration of calcium carbonate, which raises the soil’s pH and makes them highly alkaline or basic.
Peaty soil is not usually a part of native landscapes, and it is often imported to be incorporated into the local soils to increase their water-holding capacities. Peat is also rich in nutrients, increasing fertility, and is an excellent medium to grow many types of grass.
Like peat, silt is an all-purpose soil type that can grow several turfgrass varieties. Furthermore, unlike peat, silt has the added advantage of excellent drainage in addition to good water-holding capacity, making it less prone to flooding and saturation.
However, silt is lightweight, which makes it vulnerable to washing away and compaction.
So, if the golf course has silty soil, choose a turfgrass with an extensive root network and good tolerance against soil compaction so it can thrive without too many issues.
Choosing a suitable turfgrass type for clay-rich soils can be somewhat challenging. It stays wet in the cold and becomes brittle when it dries during the summer.
Furthermore, it tends to hold onto water and drains slowly, particularly after heavy rain. Therefore, clay soil often needs to be amended before planting grass.
Sandy soil is dry to the touch, light, and often low in nutrients. Also, it is usually somewhat acidic. However, sandy soils drain well, which gives them a significant advantage over other soil types. Sand can also be added to different soils to improve their drainage.
Other Factors To Consider
In addition to the soil type, you also need to consider the following:
Most grass types will wither and die if temperatures are too low or too high. Only a few grass types can survive and thrive in very low or high temperatures. So, when choosing turfgrass for a golf course, ensure it can withstand the ups and downs of the local temperatures.
Another critical thing to consider when picking grass is determining how much sunlight falls on the area where you plant the grass. Some turfgrass types require a lot of light to grow and thrive and will lose color if they are not receiving enough sunlight.
Most golf courses use natural grass. However, some use artificial turf, and it has several advantages. Keep reading to learn more about synthetic golf turfgrass.
Common Types Of Golf Grass
Now that you know the properties of good golf grass and what you need to keep in mind when picking golf grass, let’s discuss some of the most commonly used turfgrass types on golf courses in the United States and worldwide. That is not all, though!
We will also tell you how to play on these grasses for the best shot!
Photo Credit Bentgrass is a specialty grass for golf courses, putting greens, and lawn tennis facilities.
Bentgrass At A Quick Look
|3 to 5
|Ideal Mowing Height
|Between 0.5″ and 0.125.”
|Ideal Soil Type
|Performs best on sandy soil and tolerates clay soils with suitable drainage
|Ideal Soil pH
|Slightly acid soil (pH 6.0 to 6.8)
Bentgrass is one of the most widely used turfgrass types on golf courses all around the world. In the United States, it is commonly used in Midwest, Northwest, and Northeast due to the relatively cooler summers. You will find bentgrass grown primarily in coastal regions as it prefers a mild climate and does not perform well in extreme conditions.
Bentgrass is also very popular among golfers as it looks very pleasing to the eyes, and turf managers can mow it to extremely short heights to create stunning putting greens.
Additionally, bentgrass also grows thick, creating excellent golfing conditions.
Some commonly used varieties of bentgrass for golf courses include
- Velvet bentgrass
- Colonial bentgrass
- Creeping bentgrass
How To Play On Creeping Bentgrass
Playing golf on bentgrass is simple as it lacks grain and has a predominantly upright growth habit. If you find yourself playing golf on bentgrass, make sure to account for the thickness of the grass and swing as hard as possible.
Also, you must ensure that the club goes straight up and then directly down on the ball. If the club hits the grass, your ball might not even make it to the fairway.
Lastly, ensure that you hold the club firmly, as it will ensure that face shutting is as minimum as possible and will allow you to shoot the ball straighter on impact.
Photo Credit Bermuda grass has been and continues to be one of the most popular grasses used on golf courses.
Bermuda Grass At A Quick Look
|USDA plant hardiness zones 5 and 6
|Ideal Mowing Height
|1 to 2 inches for Common bermudagrass1/2 to 1-1/2 inches for hybrid varieties
|Ideal Soil Type
|Sandy well-draining soils
|Ideal Soil pH
|6 to 6.5
Bermuda Grass Overview
Since Bermuda grass is a warm-season grass, it is best suited for golf courses in areas with hot summers and moderate winters. Bermuda grass is most commonly used in South Texas, Georgia, and Florida in the United States.
The grass performs exceptionally well in heat and can keep growing at a reasonable speed. However, it does not fare well in the cold and will g dormant and turn brown when the temperatures get low. In such regions, Bermuda grass is usually overseeded with a col-season turfgrass that will keep the golf course green in the winter.
Nevertheless, its fantastic durability makes it a preferred choice for golf courses. It can withstand a lot of foot traffic and quickly recover from damage. Furthermore, turf managers can mow it very close to the ground without killing the turfgrass.
Some commonly used varieties of Bermuda grass for golf courses include
- Blackjack Bermuda Grass
- Oasis blended Bermuda grass
- Tifway II
How To Play On Bermuda Grass
Since Bermuda grass grows thick, many golfers struggle to play on it, as it can be challenging to keep the club moving through impact. Furthermore, the grass tends to stick to the club, which makes playing on it even more complex and trickier.
When playing on Bermuda grass, you also need to consider the grain. For example, if you have an uphill putt into the grain, you will need to hit the ball harder. And, if you have a downhill putt but are into the grain, the ball will move slowly when hit.
When shooting chips or pitches, I recommend you do it down the grain to control the ball much more quickly. Also, when hitting the ball into the grain, you can put it with a hybrid or 3-shoot. However, please do not use a putter, as the grain will eat it up.
Lastly, when playing on Bermuda grass, do not forward press the club as it reduces loft and bounce, making it stick to the surface of the Bermuda turfgrass.
Photo Credit Poa Annua is a variety of Bluegrass that is often used on golf courses worldwide.
Poa Annua At A Quick Look
|4 to 8
|Ideal Mowing Height
|1 to 2 inches
|Ideal Soil Type
|Light (sandy), medium (loamy), and heavy (clay) soils
|Ideal Soil pH
|6 to 6.5
Poa Annua Overview
Poa Annua is another common grass widely used to put greens and golf courses. However, it can also be used on other parts of a golf course, such as roughs. Golfers often refer to Poa annua on golf courses as Poa, and I will use this terminology here too.
Poa is a trendy choice for golf courses due to its vibrant colors. Also, Poa does not stick to the club as much, unlike bentgrass and Bermuda grass. However, Poa is not perfect and has a significant drawback when used as turfgrass on golf courses.
Poa cannot be cut too short; if not maintained adequately, it will die. Moreover, Poa turfs often have a streaky or splotchy appearance. However, this blotchiness is often just a cosmetic effect, and it does not affect the smoothness or quality of the golf course.
Some golfers are okay with these greens, while others hate them. The latter are usually those who do not know how to read a turf and adjust their shorts accordingly. And, if you are one of the latter, do not worry. We are here to help!
How To Play On Poa Annua
As a golfer, the first thing you should remember when playing on Poa is that these turfs are lower than they look. So, when pitching and chipping, adjust your shorts accordingly. Furthermore, it would help if you were patient when playing golf on Poa.
Poa greens tend to get bumpier as the day progresses, affecting the putting.
So, if you miss a few putts when playing on Poa, do not let it get you down. You would be okay as long as you remember that downhill puts on Poa go the furthest.
Lastly, when pitching and chipping on Poa turf, I recommend using as much loft as possible. It will ensure that the ball does not spin as much on the golf course, and you get the most out of your shot and golfing experience without breaking a sweat.
Photo Credit Zoysia grass is a tested and trusted turf for many golf course managers and groundskeepers.
Zoysia Grass At A Quick Look
|Zones 5 to 11
|Ideal Mowing Height
|Ideal Soil Type
|Ideal Soil pH
|Slightly acidic soil pH (6.0 to 6.5) is best
Zoysia Grass Overview
Even though Zoysia grass is somewhat expensive to establish, in the long run, it requires less input to maintain a quality playing turf. For example, compared to other warm-season turfgrass species, Zoysia grass has fewer pest concerns, a higher heat tolerance, and requires less water to maintain its green lush green color.
Sprigs can establish zoysia grass, seed, and sod depending o the requirements and preferences. However, the establishment of the turf with complete sodding is usually the method of choice. Furthermore, there are many cultivars of Zoysia grass available nowadays in the market for purchase, such as Zenith, Meyer, and Innovation.
Zoysia grass grows slowly but is exceptionally durable, making it ideal for high-foot-traffic areas such as golf courses. Another advantage of Zoysia grass is that it creates a dense and thick turf that creates excellent playing conditions for golfers.
However, Zoysia grass produces a lot of thatch, and turfgrass managers must rely on specific cultural practices to keep the thatch production under check.
How To Play On Zoysia Grass
If you ever find yourself playing on a golf course with Zoysia grass, you can do a few things to get the most out of your shots. First of all, remember that everything is based on pace. Zoysia grass greens are slow, and they will affect your putt more.
Nevertheless, the grass will not significantly affect your putt if your speed is good. However, aside from that, Zoysia grass creates an excellent playing turf, making the ball look like it is sitting on a tee! And all you have to do is, aim and take the shot.
Lastly, when playing on Zoysia, remember that it is sticky and will stick to your club. Also, its blades are tight and rigid, so you have to shoot effortlessly.
Photo Credit Both the tall and fine fescue varieties are widely used on golf courses.
Fescue Grass At A Quick Look
|3 to 4
|Ideal Mowing Height
|2.5 to 4.0 inches high
|Ideal Soil Type
|Clay soils high in organic matter
|Ideal Soil pH
|Between 5.5 and 7.5
Fescue Grass Overview
If you have ever watched a golf championship, you must already be familiar with Fescue grass. Typically, golf course fescue is planted somewhere between the second and subsequent cuts of rough (such as in unmowed native areas). However, when most golfers think of Fescue, they imagine hard grass that can grow several feet tall.
It is the main reason why fescue grass is rarely used on fairways. It makes it very hard to hit the ball directly, as it can be pretty challenging because of the grass’s roughness. However, it has been used in some places on fairways and putting greens.
One notable example is Chambers Ba, where golfer Jordan Speith won his first United States Golf Open championship. The other prominent example is the Whistling Straits, which hosted the 2021 golf Ryder cup. Both places used Fescue grass.
How To Play On Fescue Grass
First, avoid playing golf on the turf of Fescue. However, if you find yourself playing golf on Fescue grass, the objective should be to get the ball out as soon as possible. And the last thing you want to do is leave the shot in the grass and try again.
Also, understand what you are dealing with here. Expect the golf ball to travel at most 40 to 50 percent of its average distance on the hit. Also, try to hit as aggressively as possible and make sure you swing down and through the golf ball.
Lastly, open the club up to increase the bounce. Doing this will help it quickly glide through the long grass and ensure you hit the ball right on the spot.
Grasses For Different Parts Of A Golf Course
Photo Credit Top golf course maintenance companies know the exact grass to use on different parts of a golf course.
When golf was introduced, people did not pay much attention to the type of grass used. However, the grass is a crucial part of a golf course today, and it can either make or break a game. Also, high-end golf courses often use different types of grass for various parts of a golf course to create a bit of contrast and enhance the golfing experience. So, let’s quickly discuss what grasses are best suited for various parts of a golf course.
Grass On Golf Course Greens
Golf course greens are the most attractive areas to play on for golfers and on-lookers. Today, most golf courses use a combination of Bentgrass and Bermuda grass on golf course greens. It is because it keeps the greens lush throughout the year.
Furthermore, these grasses can be cut very low without killing the turf, which makes an excellent playing field. Some golf course greens also have Poa, a very tough grass. However, it makes the golf course green bumpier over time.
Grass On Golf Course Roughs
The grass on the rough is usually at least 1.5 inches in length, which is taller than the grass on the fairways. So, the rough areas of a golf course typically use grass types that can withstand harsh weather conditions, such as Kentucky Bluegrass or Perennial Rye. Rye and Bluegrass thrive at longer lengths, making them the perfect choice for the roughs.
These grasses are also known for being hardy, making them ideal for roughs.
Grass On Golf Course Fairways
The type of grass used on the fairways of a golf course can vary widely from place to place. Older golf courses, typically those over 25 years old, often have fairways made up of Kentucky Bluegrass or Perennial Ryegrass. These grass types are durable and require minimal maintenance, making them a good choice for fairways.
Also, they can survive in most seasons and handle significant weather changes.
On the other hand, newer golf courses tend to have fairways made up of Creeping Bentgrass, which is tolerant of low cutting. However, a few golf courses use Zoysia Grass on their fairways, which is known for its ability to withstand drought and high heat.
Artificial Turf For Golf Courses
Photo Credit Newer, high-tech artificial grass can simulate different grass textures for a better virtual golf experience.
If you are a golf enthusiast, you must have heard that golf courses worldwide have recently begun experimenting with artificial turf. And for a good reason! Synthetic turf offers several advantages over natural grass turf. Take, for example,
It Requires Less Maintenance
Once installed, you do not need to mow artificial turf or even water and fertilize it. It will just stand there without requiring much maintenance and maintain its color.
You Don’t Need To Wait For The Grass To Grow
Grasses best suited for golf courses are often slow growers and can take months to establish. However, artificial turf can be installed in a matter of days.
Artificial Turf Is Sustainable
Turfgrass on a golf course requires hundreds and thousands of gallons of water as well as a considerable amount of fertilizer and other soil amendments to stay in good shape and keep its green color. It increases expenses and also takes a toll on the environment.
However, artificial turf needs no water or fertilizer, making it cheaper and a good choice for people and companies who want to limit their environmental impact.
Regardless of where you live and the climate conditions in your area, there is always grass that you can use on your golf course. However, do your research before selecting a grass and even if you are just a golfer and not a golf course owner, knowing the grass can help you up your game and give you a chance to impress your buddies.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What type of grass do most golf courses use?
In the United States, most golf courses use Bentgrass, Poa Annua, and Bermuda grass. However, some golf courses also use fescues and ryegrass.
What grass is on UK golf courses?
Most golf courses in the United Kingdom use bentgrass or ryegrass in the golf courses. These grasses are known for their heat tolerance and adaptability to hot climates.
Why is Bermuda grass difficult in golf?
Even though Bermuda grass creates great turf, playing golf on Bermuda grass is not easy. It is thick and sticks with the club, making it challenging to strike the perfect shot.
How can I improve the quality of golf grass?
Golf grass needs a much more sophisticated and comprehensive care plan, unlike home lawns. It needs to be mowed much more regularly and watered and fertilized with great care to maintain its lush green color and provide a good playing surface.
Sources for Further Reading
Golf Course Turfgrass Management Program. The Pennsylvania State University. (2023). Retrieved 22 January 2023, from https://plantscience.psu.edu/undergraduate/additional-programs/golf
Turfgrass & Golf Course Management. The University Of Maryland. (2023). Retrieved 22 January 2023, from https://agnr.umd.edu/academics/programs-study/turfgrass-golf-course-management
Golf & Sports Turf Management. The University of Minnesota. (2023). Retrieved 22 January 2023, from https://crk.umn.edu/academics/agriculture-and-natural-resources-department/golf-sports-turf-mamanagement
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