If you love golf, you already know that you want to plant a specific type of grass on the putting green to ensure the quality of play is great. For the best golfing experience, turfgrasses with certain qualities are preferred. The climate in the region where the course is located is also a significant contributing factor on the best type of turfgrass for putting greens. But what is the best type of golf course green grass?
The best types of golf course green grass for putting greens are bentgrass, fescue, Bermuda grass, zoysia, poa annua, and perennial ryegrass. You can use these turfgrasses to establish your own fairway at home because they are low-growing grass varieties when mowed and maintained properly.
What is putting green?
The putting green, or simply ‘the green’, refers to the section of a golf course where the hole and the flagstick are located. This part of the course is typically oval-shaped and is specifically designed for putting. To clearly mark out the putting green for players, it’s common practice amongst golf course designers to use turfgrass of a different shade from the rest of the course (fairway).
Since the putting green is where golfers softly hit the ball to make it smoothly roll into the hole, turfgrasses with fine-textured blades are preferable for this part of the course. Such grasses provide minimal resistance to the ball for a faster roll. A good example of a fine-textured turfgrass commonly used on golf turfs is creeping bentgrass.
Meanwhile, in southern regions where grass blades tend to bend due to the hot weather, hybrid Bermuda grass is preferred for the putting green due to its erect blades. The ball cuts much easier through the stiff, upright blades compared to turfgrass with bending grass blades.
Pro tip: In some cases, the putting green is usually raised higher than the fairway. It may also be level with the fairway (flat), sloped, or contoured.
Best Golf Green Grass Types
When selecting the best golf course putting green grass, you should factor in the blade texture and whether the grass can withstand being mowed low. Some of the best grass types for a golf course putting green include bentgrass, Bermuda grass, perennial ryegrass, fescue grass, Poa annua, and Zoysia grass.
Bentgrass grows low, thus can be mowed close to the ground without damaging the turf. This is an important aspect when it comes to golf course greens, as low-cut grass gives the best playing experience. The low-growth profile also gives this grass variety a great visual aesthetic.
Bentgrass also grows to form thick sod, giving it superior wear resistance compared to most other types of turfgrasses. This quality makes this grass species useful on golf course greens, which typically undergo heavy foot traffic, especially on commercial golf turfs.
Bentgrass is preferred over Bermuda grass for putting greens located in the northern regions, as it withstands the cooler weather. It’s also commonly used in the transition zones.
2. Bermuda grass
Bermuda grass is best used on putting greens in southern regions due to its superior drought-hardiness and heat resistance when compared to most other turfgrasses. This turfgrass species also has excellent injury recovery, which is an important quality on golf courses due to the high rate of wear due to frequent foot traffic.
Just like bentgrass, Bermuda grass can also be mowed quite low without harm to the turf. It also grows stiff/erect (blades don’t bend) thus causing lesser friction on the ball during gameplay.
However, since it’s a warm-season grass species, Bermuda grass doesn’t thrive in cold weather in the northern regions.
3. Fescue grass
Fescue grass is a cool-season turfgrass that thrives in cold weather and can still tolerate some degree of heat. As such, this turfgrass variety is best used on golf course greens situated in the transition zones where the weather is bound to shift between either ends of the temperature spectrum.
Pro tip: Fescue grass has a fine texture that makes for a better golfing experience as the ball moves much easier on such grasses.
4. Perennial ryegrass
Ryegrass has an upright growth habit, which allows for smoother gameplay. Its dark green shade is visually-pleasing, hence this turfgrass is also commonly used to create striping patterns, which is an aesthetic preference when it comes to golf turf greens.
This smooth-textured grass causes lesser resistance on the ball. And just like most other grasses used on golf courses, perennial ryegrass tolerates close mowing without damage.
Beware, though, that perennial ryegrass lacks underground runners (rhizomes) to help it spread fast like most other varieties of turfgrass. As such, you’ll need to do more work in terms of seeding to fully fill in the putting green.
5. Zoysia grass
Zoysia grass is another turf species that’s best suited for golf greens in southern climates, just like Bermuda grass. This warm-season turfgrass doesn’t die in hot weather. What’s more, its excellent drought tolerance means that it doesn’t have to be watered a lot even in the summer, which is a crucial quality if you’re looking to save on irrigation cost for your backyard putting green.
It’s easy to build a golf course green using Zoysia grass, as its thick growth habit results in a dense turf, a desirable quality in golfing. Even better, you’ll barely have to worry about weeds invading the turf, as the thick Zoysia sod typically chokes them out.
Note: Another notable feature of Zoysia grass is its great wear-hardiness, which makes it highly desirable in commercial golf courses that undergo heavy use.
6. Poa annua
Poa annua is a warm-season turfgrass commonly used on putting greens due to its cosmetic benefits. By planting different strains of this grass on the green, the area ends up with a streaked appearance, which is considered visually appealing. You also won’t have to wait long after planting to end up with a usable poa annua turf, as it’s a fast grower.
Poa annua outperforms bentgrass, a popular putting green turfgrass, in terms of traffic tolerance. It also withstands low-light conditions than most other types of turfgrasses. However, being a warm-season grass, Poa annua may not be the best option for greens in cold regions.
Can you grow fairway grass at home?
You can successfully grow fairway grass at home provided you adopt the correct planting and maintenance practices. Fairway grass varieties are usually low growing types, as golf turfs have to be mowed low. Common low-growing turfgrasses used on golf fairways include Bermuda grass and bentgrass.
After choosing the right fairway grass species, it’s now time to establish your home golf course/ fairway turf. First off, prep the turf soil to boost healthy grass growth by adding compost or commercial fertilizer. Then, using a spreader, broadcast grass seed on the lawn at a rate of 1-2 pounds per 1000 square feet.
After sowing the seeds, water the entire turf for 3-5 minutes daily until the seeds sprout into grass seedlings. After germination, you can then increase the daily rate of irrigation by a couple minutes for deeper root development and faster spreading.
Another important post-planting maintenance requirement for your fairway lawn is mowing. You need to mow the turf low if you’re looking to create the kind of low-lying turf synonymous with golf course fairways. You may also leave the grass clippings on the turf after mowing as they add nutrients to the soil.
- NICK CHRISTIANS, Ph.D., Iowa State University: Fairway Grasses for Midwest Golf Courses
- Jeff Mulhollem, PennState University: Golf course turfgrass species ‘remembers’ if it was mowed, develops differently
- Dominic Petrella, University of Minnesota: Using fine fescue species as a low input turf for golf greens in Minnesota