It is not by accident that the grass in a golf course looks almost too perfect to step on. It impacts everything about the game, and can be considered the “foundation” of a course. The grasses used vary greatly, but tend towards types that are tough, can repair themselves/grow quickly, and will hold up to heavy use from golfers, carts, and equipment. The type of grass used will vary by region, as some will need to withstand desert heats, and some will need to withstand cold and winter conditions. Over time, the technology advancement of the game has grown to include engineering golf course grasses for better performance. While natural grass requires maintenance through pesticides, mowing, and fertilization, the technology can be adapted to benefit golfers and course owners alike.
While the early courses used grasses that grow naturally, these grasses do not thrive in all climates, now it’s not just about using grasses native to a course’s locale, it’s also about importing -or even engineering- to produce perfect greens. Methods include hybridizations, which means selectively breeding the different grasses together over the years. Engineering genetically modified grass for a perfect golf course green, is not common, but we are seeing more forays into the use of science to develop the genetics of the grass for ideal golfing. Although the nature of biotech crops are controversial, the development work is happening, and so is the push to get it into the market. The ideal grass would be the easy to maintain, improve performance in the game, be resistant to weather and pest, and possibly even grow to the perfect length and stop: no mowing needed.
Below are some breeds of grass common to most golf courses:
Bahia Grass: This grass thrives in a warm climate. It grows in tropical regions. The leaves are flat and tough-textured in appearance. This breed is most often used for roughs and landscaping in a golf course.
Bentgrass: This grass grows well during cold seasons and is commonly used for tees, greens, and fairways. These leaves have a grain to them, and that grain can seriously affect a slope -for better or worse. It is a carpet-like grass and requires a lot of work and maintenance.
Bermuda Grass: This grass is also common in warm climates and tropical regions. This grass, like the Bentgrass, definitely has a grain as well. It can withstand heat, repairs quickly, and is drought resistant.
Perennial Ryegrass: The Perennial Ryegrass grows in any cool-summer region. Often used for roughs and fairways, it quickly develops a strong root system when planted, is easy to mow, and responds rapidly to fertilization.
Zoysia: Zoysia can grow in many different climates. It is used at greens, tees and fairways. It is a blanket-like grass, with a fine texture, but thick growth that makes it very suitable for golf greens.
Kikuyu: This is another warm/topical region grass. The leaves are notable for two reasons: they are covered with fine hairs, and they have a tendency to “bend over” in the middle. This bending can “trap” the club and affect the club head speed.