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  • Writer's pictureGerrit van Rooyen

Getting down and dirty with turfgrass

Now that we’ve looked at the different types of golf courses, let’s get down to the ground level of it all. Grass.

Ok, stop. I know what you’re thinking. Grass is grass. Who cares? Well, with a sport that relies so heavily on the stuff, it matters quite a bit.

So grass that’s used on a golf course, often called “turfgrass”, needs to be resilient. It gets a lot of "wear and tear" being tread on day after day, both by foot and tyre. So with all the damage that’s done, it needs to repair itself fast, as no one wants to play on a scabby course full of dead spots and holes.

So it seems one grass type would do it, right? Just use the most robust quick-growing one out there. But that doesn’t work either because you need one that works for the climate of the area the course is in. So the best grass for one region could totally fail you in another.

For example, Bermuda grass is an extremely popular choice for some famous courses, like Augusta National, and has been around for ages. Perfect for golfing on as it repairs fast, drains well, and can be mowed quite short without damage. But while it’s superb in warm climates, it will wither and die if temperatures get too low. On the other hand, Perennial Ryegrass, another favourite, can withstand colder temperatures. It can be used as an overseeding with Bermuda which helps fill in gaps that can occur or on its own such as in the tee boxes and fairways of Pebble Beach. Other types include Bentgrass, used in coastal locations, and Zoysia, which is the most versatile among climates.

The types of grass are fairly similar, as they all need certain characteristics to be turfgreens, but they are distinguishable as well. Bermuda and Ryegrass have strong roots and grows in clumps, Bentgrass grows more consistently with shallower but thick roots, while Zoysia has deep roots, fine-blades and also grows in clumps.

Once you figure out the right turfgrass your job, setting up the course isn’t done. It takes a lot of work to get the grass to work for you. Imagine how perfect and smooth those greens are. If it was just the grass that did that we’d all have perfect lawns. No, setting up and maintaining greens is a big job.

If you are wanting people to come play on your course most of the year, you can’t have the greens sopping wet after every rain. That’s why the greens are bulldozed beforehand, lined with plastic, then gravel, then drainage pipes, then sand, all in a perfect contour. Finally, the grass is planted in the sterile sand to allow for maximum drainage. Who knew so much was happening underfoot?

After it’s all set up and planted, you have to ensure that the grass is getting plenty of sunlight, water, nutrients, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides to keep it alive and healthy and free of unwanted intruders. Most greens need daily mowing and tending to keep them looking so pristine.

So that was my crash course on “turfgrass”. Now I know that the golf courses aren't covered in “just grass”. Next time I see those pristine greens, I will take a moment to appreciate what goes into making them so perfect.

Hope you all have a good week further!

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