Grass Selection

When working on a new design the question of which grass to use is always a pertinent one and discussed early in the process. On any redesign / renovation / restoration project it is discussed to a lesser extent albeit not uncommon particularly if the scope of work includes a review of the existing turf and conditions.

Kikuyu Grass has been a hot topic this past week… both the Riviera GC and East London GC golfers got to experience the yin/yang play characteristics of kikuyu. I think it was clear for everyone to see, from these events, that grass selection is indeed important and one of the reason I wanted to write a bit about it – in particular the key players and decision makers and the general process of elimination.

So what is important for the Architect:

Obviously play characteristics are important….the Architect is going to want a grass that best meets his design intent if possible. If the Architect’sdesire is to have a golf course that plays hard and fast then it is important the right grass is selected in helping achieve this end…and no that would not be kikuyu.

In some cases Architects may choose a variety of grasses types for visual purposes. As an example an Architect may choose both a warm and cool season grass and use both in an area to define a hole(s) or feature. Whilst I dont necessarily advocate this I do advocate using native grasses, where possible, in the far rough areas particularly if it will produce a stark colour contrast with the fairway/rough grass. There is nothing more dour than playing a golf course that is wall to wall green so having different shades of green /orange/ brown can be particularly pleasing to the eye. Golf Architect Alistair Mackenzie would say ‘golf courses that consisted entirely of one shade of green would be merely ugly. There is great charm and beauty in varying shades of colour of a golf course’ in the book ‘The Spirit of St Andrews’.

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

Finding native grasses on site, that will give a good colour contrast with the fairway grass, is a bonus

But surely the most important factor in grass selection for any Architect should be to choose based on which grass requires the least amount of water, mowing, pesticides and fertilisers. Also which grass is native to that area….importing grass from abroad can be very time consuming and costly and may not be an option if the construction programme is very tight.

The client or Golf Club may see things slightly differently also….

They want a grass that produces the best playing conditions all year round because today’s golfers care about this greatly. In addition to this, they wants the grass of choice to be the most visually impressive and this means green most of the time because today’s golfers care about this greatly. It then becomes the responsibility of the superintendent to ensure that these needs are met  – ideally without increasing the amount of water, pesticides and fertilisers because that equates to more money.

The course superintendent wants a grass that is not labour/machine/care intensive. They want a grass that wont keep them up at night wondering if it is growing or not.

Then there is the Agronomist…someone with good understanding of grasses and flora in general. The agronomist usually is able to identify which grass is best suited for the situation. On all the projects that I have worked on we have always insisted that an agronomist is employed to give us some guidance in this regard.


Sprigging Zoysia Matrella

and lest not forget the technical data that will help with the decision making…..What are the temperatures month to month? What is the water availability? what is the water quality? How much precipitation and when etc etc?

So as you can imagine there is a lot to think about and many stakeholders involved. At the end of the day what is important is making the right call – that hopefully encompasses everyone’s ‘needs’  – because the wrong call could end up being very costly in the long run.

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