The Types of Grass and What It Means to Your Game

The type of grass you play on affects your game. That’s especially true when it comes to putting, where the type of grass can dramatically affect your putts. Knowledge of how the different types of grass affect your game, gained through all your golf lessons, golf tips and personal experience, can help lower golf scores and golf handicaps.

Although every locale is different, there are grasses that can be used on almost on any course. There are also grasses that can be used only in specific areas of the United States, like the South. In addition, there are specialized varieties of grass developed specifically for putting greens. Known as cultivars, these varieties require intensive maintenance and considerable pesticide and herbicide maintenance.

Types of Grass

Bentgrass is a hardy, resilient type of grass. Brought to the America from Europe, this perennial is used on courses in the North, Northeast, and Midwest because it withstands cool temperatures. Creeping bentgrass is ideal for greens, fairways, and tees. Colonial bentgrass is better suited for fairways than greens because it’s not well adapted to lower mowing heights.

Bermuda grass is a textured, fast repairing grass. Native to Southern Europe, it’s used on courses in the South because it withstands heat. It adapts well to low mowing heights and is wearable. Bermuda grass is used for tees, fairways, and greens. In the cooler part of the season, Bermuda grass is overseeded with perennial ryegrass, known for its rapid reestablishment, until the Bermuda grass recovers from the Winter.

Other types of grass found on golf courses are Kentucky bluegrass, Zoysia, a warm season grass, and Bahiagrass, a low maintenance grass used in roughs. St. Augustine grass, native to the Wet Indies, can’t be used as far North as Bermuda grass. Poa anna, a bluegrass that thrives in cool and damp conditions such as northern California, does well in hot and humid conditions but not in cold and freezing temperatures. Pebble Beach, for example, has poa anna greens.

How Grass Affects Your Game

A course’s conditions, which include the type of grass used in the fairways, affects how you play. For example, the grass affects how much spin you can put on the ball. You can put more spin on shots hit from Zoysia grass than Bermuda grass because the ball sits up better. Bentgrass is also better for adding spin to the ball. Finding out what type of grass you’re playing on before starting, as I often say in my golf lessons and golf tips, can save you strokes.

It’s especially helpful to know the type of grass used on the greens. Some of the turf grasses developed specifically for greens make them fast, especially if the greens are well kept. TifEagle, a Bermuda grass developed for putting greens, is a good example of a turf grass that can be made really fast and thrives under close mowing and heat. Greens made with Tifdwarf are also fast but you can’t keep it at the same height as bentgrass for long before it begins to thin out.

Grass and the Grain of the Putting Green

Creeping bentgrass is the grass of choice for putting greens in any climate in which it can be grown. Bentgrass has very thin blades, which grow densely. It can be mowed very closely, resulting in a felt-like smoothness to the putting surface.
Hot, humid climates take a toll on bentgrass greens, so putting quality declines as temperatures rise. Hybrid Bermuda grass is used for putting greens in warm, humid regions. It tolerates heat well under low moving heights.

The key with any grass, as I’ve pointed out in my golf lessons and golf tips, is determining which way the grain goes. The grain is the direction the blades are growing thanks to factors like, the direction of the setting sun, prevailing winds, and water drainage on the greens. Aside from these identifiers, you can find the grain’s direction by locating the brown, sunburned side of the hole (due to exposed roots). That’s generally the direction the grass is growing.

The grain can affect your putting. Putts traveling down-grain will go at a much faster pace than putts hit into the grain, and breaking putts will either be magnified or reduced by the grain. Applying this understanding of grain while on the course will allow you to visualize the speed and direction of your putts more precisely, ultimately leading to lower scores and lower golf handicaps.

Now, what I’ve just explained to you should help you understand how grass affects your game, but experience is the best teacher. Be aware of the type of grass you’re playing on and keep track of how it affects your game. Knowing how the grass plays can lower your scores.