GET INTO GOLF: Going green in the winter
In the late spring and summer, the general appearance of each golf course will be very similar. Although the designs will often differ dramatically from location to location, green trees, white sand and flowers, are placed or spread out in an attractive pattern.
Yet, this time of the year, the kaleidoscope of color often lays dormant. It is not unusual for us to simply view shades of green and brown. Trees without leaves, wet bunkers, and plants still waiting to bloom.
Grass types will often go overlooked by most players which led to a question from our readers after seeing a lot of brown grass on television. “Why do they let the grass die?”
In warmer environments, climates that maintain higher temperatures, tropical areas, the common grass is known as Bermuda. Bermuda grass thrives in warmer temperatures. However, the plant will be dormant and turn a lighter shade in cooler temperatures (around 65).
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When Bermuda grass experiences lower temperatures, the plant goes into a so-called dormant state. It is not dead, just sleeping. The result is a light brown to beige to off-white grass that does not grow.
Golf courses that have the budget, will then over-seed with a type of grass that grows during the cooler months. Typically this is perennial rye.
Understanding that the entire golf course, rough included, will total around 120 acres, it is cost prohibitive to over-seed everything. So, the procedure is to include the fairways (where we are supposed to hit it) and let the rough remain.
The result is a clearly defined fairway of green, rye grass that is surrounded by beige, dormant Bermuda grass.
We have seen this stark contrast in the Palm Springs events (PGA West) and Arizona (TPC Scottsdale). Pebble Beach and Torrey Pines stay cool enough to enjoy the perennial rye year round.
As you watch this week’s Genesis Invitational in Pacific Palisades (near Los Angeles) there will likely be some patches of beige with a unique type of grass known as Kikuyu. It will go dormant, but remains active at cooler temperatures than Bermuda.
The bad news is that Kikuyu is more coarse than Bermuda and can be very testing to play from (the reason we don’t see it often). Full swings from the rough are challenging and shots around the greens can be almost impossible to get close to the hole.
So, after you get in your round at your home course, enjoy watching the tour players venture down Hogan’s Alley at the Riveria Country Club in southern California. Those shots you see from the rough are much more difficult than they appear.
John Renslow is a PGA professional, VP of Yugi Golf Management, and provides golf instruction at local courses.
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