If you love to play golf, you will truly appreciate the view of lush and uniform terrain of the pristine, tight, springy green blanket on which the game is played.
In golf courses, they use various types of grasses to create green fairways, roughs, and putting greens. It’s mainly dependant on the climate of the region and the soil type present.
For those who think that that there is only a single type of grass, you might be astonished to learn that there are several different types of grass in golf courses these days.
The grass used in golf courses is usually mentioned as “turf grass”. These grasses are traditionally durable, fast-repairing varieties that can endure high foot traffic and weather exposure. The grass on golf courses tends to vary from one region to another depending on how the grass can warm or cold conditions.
Different types of grass can be used on the fairway, tee box, and greens, but greens frequently have various Poa.
In the past, the type of grasses on golf courses was not even noticed. Today, the kind of grass on the golf course has a vital role in the game and can affect a player’s performance. The improvements in landscaping, design, and turfgrass maintenance determine the type of grass on golf courses.
• Fairways. The fairways boast a wide selection of grasses. Golf courses beyond 25 years old usually have Bluegrass or perennial ryegrass fairways. New golf courses often have the creeping Bentgrass or zoysia grass.
• Rough. The rough on courses have grass slightly longer than those in the fairways, such as ryegrass and Bluegrass.
• Greens. In most golf courses, Bentgrass or Bermuda grass are the ideal choices. Both are trimmed low to create a level putting surface. Some older golf courses still use Bluegrass or Ryegrass, but they often create a bumpy surface.
Varieties of Grass used on golf courses
There are various types of grasses used in golf courses. I will share below some of the popular grass types you might find in any golf course.
Bermuda Grass or ‘South’s Grass’ is a popular choice in golf courses due to its robust nature. It is one of the well-known and time-tested grasses widely used in golf courses around the globe, especially in areas with a warm climate.
It is a durable type of grass and can endure wear or constant foot traffic from golfers. More importantly, Bermuda grass is ideal for southern climates since it is resistant to drought and high humidity.
It can also tolerate temperatures in northern regions during the warmer seasons. Golf courses with Bermuda grass boast the greenest foliage, especially during the warm summer months.
Another common type of grass that you can find in any golf course is Bentgrass, creeping Bentgrass, or Agrostis.
Although this type of grass cannot tolerate continuous heat, it can thrive in the Northeast, most of the Midwest, and the Pacific Northwest of the USA. As part of the Poa family, it is the ideal type of grass mostly used on the greens in the southern regions.
Bentgrass loves the cooler nights in those regions and requires minimal water to maintain its green appearance, saving golf courses from spending more on irrigation. It provides a dense coverage, making it the right choice for golf course greens.
Another feature of Bentgrass that I will share is that it can be mowed short without worrying about its excessively trimmed look.
Ryegrass is a smooth type of grass that thrives on both fairways and in the rough at most high-end golf courses. Ryegrass can withstand high traffic and develops a deep green color when adequately fertilized.
Ryegrass has been a long-time favorite on golf courses, usually in any cool-summer region. It has a fine texture and clumps instead of running. When cultivating this type of grass, it should be heavily planted to produce a dense turf free from any holes or gaps.
Zoysia is a type of grass with a stiff quality that grows relatively slower than other varieties of grass used in golf courses. This type of grass’s stiffness and how it spreads and fills up any gaps makes it a durable choice for areas subject to high foot traffic from golfers.
I will share below the main types of Zoysia and their descriptions.
• Zoysia Matrella. A right choice for tropical areas and can tolerate colder winters. The leaf blade has a medium width and has varying shades of green depending on the variety. It can thrive on sandy soils or any poor-quality soil and grows more laterally than vertically.
• Zoysia macrantha. A native Zoysia grass that originated from the coasts of Queensland. It is an extremely salt hardy type.
• Zoysia Japonica. A widely used type and a suitable choice outside of the tropics. Boasts a natural tolerance to winter and adapts well to various growing conditions. The colors vary from light to dark green, depending on the type – with thin to medium blade width.
Zoysia is highly tolerant of warm temperatures and also resistant to drought. The blades of zoysia grass are delicate and can be mowed to ¾ of an inch. The zoysia grass qualities are the right choice for most municipal golf courses and lawns in southern states. Unlike its counterparts, such as ryegrass and Bentgrass, it requires less water.
Poa annua or Bluegrass is typically used as turf on the West Coast of the United States. Also, in most US areas, the Poa annua grass is considered an invasive species that often requires treatment to control its growth.
In golf courses on the West Coast, golf courses create spectacular greens with Poa annua. The grass has shallow roots that can result in problems in areas that do not receive sufficient rain. Due to its shallow roots, Poa Annua grass should be hand-watered in certain instances to ensure that it properly absorbs water.
There are two types present in the southern states – the upright plant with a bunch-type growth pattern and the decumbent variant with creeping stolons. The variant of Poa annual grass that grows upright produces large amounts of seeds, which allows it to spread more quickly.
Depending on the type of grass used in a golf course, it has its share of advantages. I will share the benefits of each kind of grass below.
• Produces a vibrant, medium green, thick turf that easily adapts to most soil and weather conditions in regions with warm temperatures.
• Has excellent tolerance to wear-and-tear conditions, drought, and salt exposure
• Rapidly establishes and capable of outgrowing most weed species
• Provides a finely textured lawn
• Good turf quality
• Maintains excellent color during winter without turning into a purplish shade
• Vigorously uniform and moderately dense growth
• Heat tolerant
• Resistance to dollar spot
• Cool-season grass with rapid germination and seedling growth
• Tolerance to cold
• Heat and drought tolerance depending on the variety
• Withstands light shade
• Tolerant to heat and drought
• Low water and maintenance requirements
• Has dense, traffic-tolerant growth
• Capability to quickly spread. It can apply and heal itself despite continuous foot traffic. It extends horizontally by spreading rhizomes beneath the surface of the ground.
• Better cold tolerance by withstanding periods of freezing weather
Each type of grass also has its share of drawbacks that you should be familiar with that I will discuss below:
• It turns brown in appearance and goes into a dormant state after the first frost, resulting in low color.
• Poorly recovers during the last half of the fall and the spring season
• Requires irrigation or occasional rain when it is starting to establish itself and when under worn areas are recovering
• Requires a certain degree of maintenance and not suitable for areas with warmer climates.
• One of the disadvantages of ryegrass is its tendency to die out if the ground temperatures reach below freezing point.
• Ryegrass has a high fertilizer and water requirement. Frequent irrigation or watering is necessary to maintain its vibrant color.
• Due to the dense growth of Zoysia, it is likely to develop thatch, which is similar to a thick layer of organic matter that builds up at the soil level.
• Requires large amounts of water during the summer months, making it a high-maintenance grass
• It turns dormant in fall once the temperature drops without proper care
• Not tolerant to shade and likely to die if planted under heavily shaded areas
How to plant
Let’s closely examine how these types of grass are planted and how to provide proper care below.
Bermuda grass can be planted as sod, plugs, seeds, or sprigs. Bermuda grass might require aeration during the growing period, especially when the terrain is under drought-like conditions. Aeration is not advisable once the lawn goes into a dormant phase.
When cultivating in cool areas, it is a low-maintenance, dynamic turf grass with high water requirements. It requires continuous watering, mowing, fertilizing, and pest control in warmer regions, especially during the summer.
You can use plugs or seeds with seed establishment as the north and pins’ preferred method in the southern regions. Always remember that the proper arrangement of the turf bed is a vital element. I highly recommend removing any rocks and debris as well as raking to break down any lumps.
It’s best if you seed at a frequency of 50 pounds for every 1,000 square feet and cover with a light dusting of a combination of sand and compost. Make sure to keep the area moist until the seeds start to germinate.
Perennial ryegrass rapidly germinates than other types of grasses. Once it has established itself, its growth becomes slow. The grass grows in clumps and spreads via vertical shoots.
When planting this type of grass, I recommend doing the task during the fall season when cool temperature conditions complement its natural growth.
Perennial ryegrass is typically used on the tee boxes and fairways. Most of the perennial varieties of ryegrass do not spread. With this in mind, it requires regular care and maintenance than grass types that spread via rhizomes.
The annual ryegrass can quickly establish after planting, but a grave concern is that it could die in temperatures that drop below freezing.
When installing zoysia grass, lay on a bed of sandy loam or washed sand. During the first 14 days, you should rinse for at least 40 minutes daily. After the initial 14 days, you can lessen the irrigation to every second day for the next 14 days. When fertilizing, you should do it between early Spring and mid to late summer if necessary.
Some types can only be grown from sod or grass sprigs. Plant the grass in Spring after the frost has passed, and the grass is at the right phase for optimal growth. It is also the ideal time to overseed thin lawns. Zoysia should be ideally planted in Spring after the threat of cold temperatures passes.
The grass proliferates with stolons or above-ground stems, and underground shoots called rhizomes. In many golf courses, Zoysia is a preferred choice as a drought-resistant, traffic tolerant, and low-maintenance grass.
The annual Poa annua prefers moist soil conditions and cold temperatures. With this in mind, it has a better edge over the warm season grasses during fall up to spring season.
As a self-proliferating, sod-generating grass, it can rapidly spread via stems below the ground or rhizomes to produce dense turf. This robust growth can quickly recuperate from damage, especially if subject to high foot traffic.
There are different types of grasses used in golf courses all over the world. Depending on the climate in a specific region, there are suitable grasses to be used. It’s interesting to note that the type of grass in a golf course can increase or decrease its difficulty.
In every golf course out there, do not be surprised to find several types of grasses, each with its own set of distinct pros and cons, along with advantages and disadvantages.
Depending on the location of the golf course, you will find a combination of grasses used. Remember that they vary. If you believe that it is just one single type of grass, you will do well to take a closer look.