The grass at the best golf courses is immaculate for a groundskeeper. The dark green color, even cut, and beautiful mow lines are a sight that any golfer gets excited to see.
Of course, not all golf courses enjoy the same kind of beautiful appearance that you might see on television. Keeping the grass green throughout a season of play, weather occurrences, weeds, and other adversities is not easy.
Here’s a video of a groundskeeper team at work:
What do the top groundskeepers do to ensure that their golf course remains in tournament-quality shape no matter what time of year it is? There are some tricks to the trade that every groundskeeper should be aware of.
Choose the Right Grass for the Climate
Not all grass grows the same way. Certain types of grass are better suited to certain climates. While it’s not impossible to grow non-native grass in different climates, choosing the right grass can make the job a lot easier.
Take a look at the number of different types of grass commonly found on golf courses. Some types are suited for long, dry summers while others are meant for cooler climates. The right grass for the climate can help reduce the need for heavy watering, use of fertilizers, and herbicides; all while withstanding the stress of players and constant mowing.
Practice Good Maintenance Procedures
Once the grass has been planted and is growing steadily, maintaining the grass is an ongoing task. Not only do golfers want to play on a well-manicured course, but proper maintenance can help the grass stay healthy.
Most grasses chosen for use on golf courses are able to withstand regular, close mowing. This is not common among other varieties of grass and weeds. Daily mowing is essential to helping the grass maintain its dominance and fight off weeds.
Of course, mowing alone isn’t enough to keep the grass healthy. Most groundskeepers also employ a regular regimen of nutrients to support the healthy growth of their grass.
Choosing the right nutrients for the stage of life of the grass is exceedingly important. The wrong mixture at the wrong stage could lead to burning, browning, or even dead patches. The correct mixture, however, can help speed up greening and maintain a deep green color throughout the entire golf season.
Herbicides and fungicides are also essential in helping maintain the health of golf grasses. Weeds that grow unchecked can starve grass of its nutrients, crowd out space for the roots of your grass, and steal valuable sunlight.
Using the proper herbicide is essential. Some types of herbicides are known as non-selective weed killers. This means the herbicide will kill anything it touches, including the grass. Typically, unless treating areas that should have no vegetation, these herbicides are not used on golf courses.
Look for herbicides specifically designed to kill broadleaf weeds or any other type of weed that may be growing and affecting the health of the golf turf.
Finally, aeration is another essential part of regular maintenance. Golf courses should do two aeration passes per season. The goal of aeration is to allow airflow to the roots of the grass and relieve any compacting of the soil. This is especially important in heavily trafficked areas like fairways and greens.
A Good Groundskeeper Creates an Effective Watering Schedule
Everyone knows that grass requires water. If you want green golf turf, then you need to be prepared to put down a lot of water. Of course, creating the right water schedule is important for getting this done.
Creating a water schedule will depend a lot on your local climate, the type of grass you have, and the time of year it is. Watering heavily in the middle of the day on a hot summer day may not provide the right results.
Instead, it is advised to water heavily in the mornings and, if needed, in the evening as well. Watering too late in the day can create opportunities for mold to grow during the cool, dark nights.
Allowing the rough to grow slightly longer can help retain water and make it less necessary to water heavily at regular intervals. Obviously, this is not an option on greens and fairways where the grass must be short and manicured.
For types of grass that require less water, it may actually be a detriment to water too heavily. Again, choose the right grass for the climate and water accordingly.
Account for Foot Traffic on the Course
One of the biggest threats to the health of golf grass and golf ball is the players on the golf course. Obviously, no one is aiming to cause damage, but players will inevitably cause issues over time for groundskeepers.
Working to reduce the traffic in certain areas can go a long way in helping golf turf recover. One of the best ways to protect a green, for example, is to change pin placements daily. This prevents golfers from walking in the same spot all the time, causing damage to the green.
Adjusting the angle of tee boxes can even go a long way in helping direct tee shots to different areas on the hole. Spreading out the foot and cart traffic is essential is preserving healthy golf turf.
Here’s a video showing how to read a golf pin sheet: It is equally useful for golfers and groundskeeper.
If needed, there are computer programs a groundskeeper can use. It can help them plot out the best places to set pin placements every day in order to reduce stress on certain areas of the green. Use technology to help yourself get a leg up in the constant battle against course damage the same way golfers use mobile apps and rangefinders to improve their game.
It can also be helpful to play on the course regularly and get a better understanding of how people navigate the course. Using this knowledge, you can prepare and account for areas that will see a lot of foot traffic from golfers as they make their way from tee to green.
Go to College and Study Up
The truth is that taking care of golf turf is hard work. Creating a golf course like the ones you see on television requires a lot of experience and education.
Frankly, there is too much to teach a groundskeeper about turf care to put into one single article. There are some basic tips that aspiring groundskeepers can use but nothing can replace the tips and tricks earned from a formal education.
If you are hoping to become a groundskeeper or grow your career to become a head of golf course maintenance, then you may wish to pursue an education in turf care. During this time, you will learn the finer details of what was discussed above plus a lot of new information about golf course maintenance.
Without this education, you would be hard pressed to build a career in the turf care industry.
Feeling Green with Envy?
If you feel a slight tinge of jealousy when you see the green, perfectly manicured courses on television then you may want to take a moment to find some perspective.
Taking care of golf turf is hard work. Managing a golf course that hosts professional tournaments is a job for someone with years of experience managing a full turf care facility.
Not to mention, those jobs also often require a formal college education in golf course turf care.
With that said, there are some essential tips that all groundskeepers should know to help ensure their grass stays green throughout the entire, long golf season. The above pieces of advice should be helpful for anyone who is getting their start in the industry or someone who just wants to make sure their lawn at home looks almost as good as the grass at the golf course.
Caring for golf course turf is no small job. It’s a constant battle with nature, weeds, pests, and people to keep perfectly manicured grass alive against all odds.
Most of all, it takes a dedication and love for the game to be able to properly manage golf turf. Without an appreciation for the game, there is no love for the grass that the game is played on. Start from a point of pride and your golf grass will surely show its green colors for many seasons to come.