All You Need to Know about the Grass on a Golf Course
You’ll be surprised to know that a lot of research and planning goes into designing and making a golf course. Unlike many other sports where the field or court dimensions and structures remain the same the world over, golf courses differ from each other in numerous ways.
A golf course can be different from another in terms of the layout or the design. Golf courses may also differ from each other based on the type of grass used.
Here is some useful information on the types of grass used in golf courses, how they affect the game, and how greens are maintained.
Types of Grass
Professional golf courses make use of natural grass on the golf course. Golf courses with artificial turf are popular too as they require zero maintenance. Environmentalists favor them as they don’t consume water and pesticides either.
Following are the species of grass used as natural turf.
Bentgrass is very durable which makes it a great choice for several golf courses. Public golf courses that see many players especially use bentgrass.
Bentgrass has a shallow and thick root system which allows it to grow consistently and withstand heavy traffic. It remains healthy even if cut very short. The texture of the leaves is very fine and without grain. The most common form of this grass is the creeping bentgrass which can create a dense cover.
The grass belongs to the poa family and is available in several varieties. It grows well in warm climates. Cooler evenings and nights help reduce stress.
Bermudagrass has a strong root system and grows in clumps. The grass can be cut short to make the best greens and fairways. Bermudagrass can also be used to make up the rough of the golf course.
Bermudagrass grows well in warm weather as it can withstand heat and high humidity. This species of grass is better at withstanding damage caused by golfers’ divots too. It is also drought resistant and repairs quickly. However, cold weather isn’t favorable for this grass. To fill in gaps in the cover, bermudagrass may be over-seeded with perennial ryegrass.
3. Perennial Ryegrass
Perennial ryegrass grows well in regions that have cool summers. Like bermudagrass, this grass grows in clumps too. In order to have a tight and hole-free cover, perennial ryegrass needs to be planted heavily.
Zoysia grows well in a range of climates except for desert or cold climates. The grass is deep-rooted, grows in clumps and has fine blades. It is a member of the poa family.
The grass grows slowly compared to other species but creates a thick mat-like cover. It needs only a little fertilizer to ward off pests and minimum maintenance.
How the Type of Grass Affects the Game
The surface of the golf course affects the direction and the speed of the golf ball. Two things affect the outcome of a putt- grain and break. Break refers to the putt going towards the left or right due to gravitational pull, while grain refers to the direction in which the grass grows.
Take the slope of the golf course into account before lining up your putt. You can figure this out for yourself or ask the course superintendent about the lowest point on the course.
Most types of grass tend to grow horizontal to the surface which produces grain. The grain or direction in which the grass grows depends on the direction in which the prevailing winds blow; the direction of the setting sun; and water drainage on the golf course.
Bentgrass grows straight up and can be cut low to provide zero grain. Bermudagrass tends to grow horizontal to the surface and thus offers moderate to high resistance. Bentgrass greens are thus fast while bermudagrass greens are relatively slow even when the grass has been cut low.
Irrespective of the turf used on a golf course, a putter needs to identify the slope and the grain so as to make the most of their putts.
Maintaining Grass on a Golf Course
You can tell how good a golf course or a course superintendent is by just looking at the grass. Often, putters will turn a blind eye to other faults on the golf course if the grass is perfect throughout the year. Greens need to be maintained and protected from mechanical as well as environmental stress.
A golf course superintendent decides when and how much the grass needs to be mowed. During high temperatures and humidity levels, greens are either left un-mowed or mowed at a raised height. Double-cutting may also be avoided to avoid applying stress on the grass.
Environmental stress can be caused by excess or lack of sunshine, water, nutrients, pesticides or air-flow. Trained workers may occasionally syringe the turf to reduce moisture and heat build-up. If this is overdone, the grass may wilt or diseases may set in. Syringing is only done in specific areas that require the process.
Pocketed greens are those that are partly surrounded by trees or shrubs. The temperature and humidity levels are often high in such areas. Providing good air circulation is important and may be achieved by thinning out the surrounding trees and shrubbery.
Irrigation is important, but for a golf course to be in great condition, having it aerated at least twice in a year will be beneficial. This allows oxygen to reach the roots and dries out a very wet soil. Fertilizers and pesticides need to be used as required.
Divots have to be replaced right away so the root can reattach itself to the ground. Moreover, the greens have to be repaired at the end of each day. The superintendent also has to ensure that the course is litter-free.
Bunkers and water hazards need to be maintained too. The sand needs to be raked regularly, and water hazards need to be at appropriate levels and free of floating debris.
Just as the game of golf isn’t as simple as it seems, the golf course isn’t simple either. A lot of things go into making the perfect golf course for the enthusiasts to enjoy. The next time you are perfecting your putt, be sure to apply some tips from above.