When it comes to putting greens there is a lot to take into consideration. Knowing what type of grass to use, maintenance routine, watering schedule, and putting greens today are all fascinating topics to understand.
The three most common types of grass used in putting greens are Bermuda grass, creeping bentgrass, and Poa annua (or annual bluegrass). The type of grass used for putting greens varies depending on the climate of the area the putting green is located in.
Let’s discuss why those specific types of grass are used, how to care for putting greens, what their watering schedule looks like, and how modern putting greens are constructed.
Types of Grass Used and Why
As I mentioned before, Bermuda grass, creeping bentgrass, and Poa annua are the three most commonly used grasses in the United States when people build putting greens.
Bermuda grass loves the heat, so it is generally used for putting greens in the south half of the States, whereas bentgrass enjoys the cooler climate of states in the north. (source)
Poa annua is still around today because it was used in older golf courses before we realized that Bermuda and bent are the best types of grasses to play on.
Poa annua is not used anymore because, while it is considered under the “hard grass” category, it has been found to create a bumpier surface the more time has passed. Now, when discussing Bermuda and bentgrass, the climate is not the only difference. (source)
- Bermuda grass is very grainy, which means that it is very defined in the direction it grows.
- This affects the break of the putt, causing the putter to keep this into consideration and make adjustments accordingly.
If you are not experienced with finding the direction of the grain, investigate the color of the grass. If the grass looks shiny, then you are looking down-grain and your putt will be fast. However, if it looks dull and dark, you are putting towards the grain and your putt will be much slower.
Creeping bentgrass is much more forgiving in the sense that the grain is not as severe. Rather than having to “play the grain” as with Bermuda, bentgrass allows the player to “play the slope”.
The color difference related to putting with or against the grain is not as defined with bentgrass as it is with Bermuda. However, with a bit of practice and training your eyes to see the grain, you will become an expert at determining the difference!
Some people are using artificial grass for their putting green, find more info here: Artificial Grass Length For Putting Green.
Putting Green Maintenance
Maintaining your backyard lawn is much simpler than the prolonged attention that is required by putting green. You can get away with the weekly mowing of your casual home lawn, but putting greens are mown daily at heights below one-eighth of an inch.
If you’re not familiar with golfing you may be wondering, why so short? Well, golfers must be able to read the turf and line up their shots properly. If the grass is longer in some areas than others, it could completely mess up their shot.
Knowing when to fertilize greens, which nutrients are best-suited for them, and the ratio of those nutrients are all very important to maintaining a healthy, playable green.
Watering putting greens takes place in one of two ways. First, they are watered by automated irrigation systems. However, watering greens in this way often creates a surface that is too spongy for a good playing surface.
The more common way to ensure that putting greens are watered properly, yet stay firm enough for play, is through the use of a superintendent.
These employees are very experienced in their observation of the putting greens, knowing when they need to be watered. Manual watering by a superintendent results in firmer surfaces with fewer weeds.
You may be wondering, what is topdressing, and why is it important? Topdressing is a mixture of fertilizing nutrients that promotes moisture retention. It adds to the superintendent’s job of watering and is another important aspect of helping your putting green stay fresh for a longer period of time.
However, the superintendent must also keep in mind putting quality ball holding/compatibility with existing greens mixtures. Speed, uniformity, trueness, and holding ability of the putting greens all play into a good game of golf. Without paying attention to those key details, the greens may look amazing but will not be acceptable for golf. (source)
Modern Putting Greens
Modern putting greens have moved away from the use of Poa annua because Bermuda grass and creeping bentgrass function at a more effective rate when golf is in play. There are other properties of putting greens that affect a golfer’s performance. Sand is a key component of newer putting greens.
Adding sand to the root zone of whichever grass is in play allows for better drainage, resistance to compaction, and balances the needs of the plant for water and air. Rapid drainage keeps putting greens from becoming too spongy to play on.
More recently, drainage pipes have been installed beneath the surface so that excess water can drain from the soil instead of causing unintended problems. (source)
If too much water sits in the soil, it can cause the sponginess that we’ve talked so much about. Keeping putting greens at the right firmness is extremely important so that putting green does not sink a lot wherever the golfer’s step. This would completely throw off the game and keep the golfers from enjoying themselves as much.
We have discussed a few of the factors that are extremely important to keep in mind when creating and maintaining a putting green. Types of greens, putting green maintenance, and watering schedules are extremely important to keep putting greens where they are best for modern golfing.
If you have not been trained to create and maintain a putting green, chances are you will have a very hard time doing so. There have been golfers who have tried to build putting greens in their backyards but have miserably failed because they have not been trained to care for them as turf professionals have.