5 Types of Golf Course Grass (and How to Play Each)

The visual appearance and playing ability of a golf course are defined mainly by the types of grass that grow on the grounds.

While most golfers don’t give much thought to the grasses under their feet, superintendents agonize over choosing the ideal turfgrass varieties and maintenance practices for their unique climate and soil conditions.

golf course grass

The grasses must provide a dense, weed-free, resilient surface able to withstand heavy traffic.

Proper grass selection and management are crucial for delivering an enjoyable golf experience by providing firm, fast, and true playing conditions golfers desire. In addition, the putting surfaces require smoothness and consistency.

In this article on golf course grasses, I’ll take a deeper look at the most popular types of turf grass varieties and how they affect how you play this great game of golf.

What are the most common golf course grass types?

1. Bentgrass

Bentgrass is a fine-bladed grass that is popular on greens and tees. It can be maintained at a shallow cutting height, allowing for smooth, fast putting surfaces.

Bentgrass provides a dense, quality turf but requires significant maintenance, including frequent mowing, irrigation, and chemical applications.

Bentgrass greens perform best in cool, humid climates, as you’ll find in the Pacific Northwest.

This grass provides fast greens that need delicate short-game skills to master. Keeping the ball in the fairway is essential as the rough can become particularly gnarly with this grass type.

2. Bermudagrass

Bermudagrass is a hardy, drought-resistant grass well-suited for fairways and roughs in warmer climates. It has an aggressive growth habit and can tolerate low mowing heights when adequately maintained.

Bermudagrass grows quickly and provides good wear tolerance concerning a region’s climate. It goes dormant and turns brown in winter. Frequent mowing, aerification, and weed control are needed.

This grass delivers fast rolling and high breaking greens that you need to pay particular attention to when sizing up a putt. Tee shots will grab quicker in Bermuda, so expect a bit less distance with the driver.

3. Ryegrass

Rye grass provides a lush, green playing surface and is often overseeded on bermudagrass fairways and tees in winter.

It also works well as a resilient cool season grass that can withstand heavy foot traffic on golf courses. Perennial rye grass has good disease resistance but is less tolerant of low mowing heights than bentgrass.

The rye grass requires sufficient irrigation and fertilization for optimal quality and growth.

On this grass, you should expect slower greens and fairways limiting rollout. Approach shots will stick better than on other grass types.

4. Fescue Grass

The most popular short grass for links golf, fescue grass does well with cool summers and grows fairly quickly in all areas of the course.

Commonly found in England and Scotland, fescue does exceptionally well because it doesn’t need many nutrients to grow. It can also withstand the salty humidity and windy conditions off the coast of these northern European countries.

Also, for a slower grass, you should expect a slow roll speed on fescue. You’ll also want to keep the ball in the fairway because fescue rough can be dense and particularly tricky when trying to get your ball out of trouble areas.

5. Kentucky Bluegrass

Among the different grasses for golf courses, Kentucky bluegrass remains a popular cool-season grass used on many golf courses in northern climates. It provides excellent density and lush green color when appropriately maintained.

Kentucky bluegrass performs well in full sun and cooler conditions. However, it has high nutrient and water requirements, and its playability declines rapidly in heat and drought stress.

Kentucky bluegrass is often incorporated on golf courses in the fairway and rough, where its appearance and playability are valued when given adequate irrigation and inputs.

With this grass, you should expect reduced rollout from the fairways. Since most bluegrass is combined with Bermuda grass for greens, you’ll find a fast putting surface awaiting you to go with the stickier bluegrass fairways.

What type of grass is used for golf greens?

When it comes to putting surfaces, grass selection is critical for achieving the smoothness, speed, and consistency that golfers desire. Bentgrass is overwhelmingly the grass of choice for greens across most climate zones.

Creeping bentgrass, in particular, is prized for its fine leaf blades and dense growth habit, which allow it to be mowed very short to produce smooth rolls for the perfect bump and run chip shots. Plus, it provides a clean surface for hitting putts that stay true.

Varieties of creeping bentgrass have been bred specifically for superior putting green performance. Other bentgrass types like colonial and velvet may also be used on greens, especially in warmer southern locations.

Some courses will use Bermudagrass on greens in the hot and humid South, mainly because the grass provides a proper roll even when slightly stressed. Perennial ryegrass is a good option for overseeding bentgrass greens to maintain green color in winter.

No matter the specific type, proper maintenance, including mowing, rolling, fertilization, and irrigation, is necessary to maintain top-notch bentgrass or Bermudagrass putting surfaces that can withstand heavy play and extreme heat to deliver the speeds and consistency golfers expect.

What is the worst grass for golf courses?

The Poa family of grasses is a common fast-growing grass that classifies as a weed grass that invades golf course turf, ruining the fine texture surface of most playing areas.

Poa annua grass thrives during cool, wet conditions, especially in coastal regions with western and southern climates, in spring and fall when other grasses are less competitive.

Found in the fairways at Pebble Beach, the Poa annua grass produces abundant, light-green seedheads that create an uneven, bumpy putting surface on greens.

Poa annua has shallow roots and thin blades, leading to poor turf density and playability. It is prone to disease and winter kill, leaving bare spots. The clumpy growth habit of Poa annua disrupts the uniformity of turfgrass stands.

While sometimes unavoidable, its presence is undesirable on putting greens and fairways. Superintendents often undertake efforts to minimize Poa annua infestations through cultural practices and herbicide applications.

What is the easiest grass to play golf on?

Bentgrass is generally considered the easiest and best-performing grass species for golf, mainly due to its reputation as a fine warm season grass that flourishes in high humidity.

When cut to fairway height, bentgrass provides a lush, uniform playing surface with good lie and traction that can withstand heavy traffic.

The fine leaf texture and dense growth habit of bentgrass allow for consistent ball roll and smooth putts on greens. Bentgrass grows rapidly with deep roots and has excellent heat and drought tolerance.

Considering how much traffic bentgrass can withstand on golf courses, it is ideal for tee boxes, fairways, and greens.

The main drawback is bentgrass requires more intensive maintenance practices, including frequent mowing, fertilization, and careful irrigation to maintain proper health and playing conditions.

But bentgrass provides an ideal smoothness, firmness, and resiliency balance for optimum golf game playability across all course areas.

What type of grass is Augusta National?

Augusta National is renowned for its impeccable playing conditions, especially the fast and undulating bentgrass greens that challenge the world’s best golfers during the Masters Tournament.

The different greens planted at Augusta start with ultra dwarf Bermuda grass, a solid warm-season grass to withstand the hot southern climate.

The golf course avoids popular zoysia grass types commonly used in the South and instead populates the fairways and roughs with Bermuda grass, which provides optimal lies and playability.

Perennial ryegrass, a popular cool-season grass, is overseeded on the greens to provide a deep green color with low maintenance through the colder months when Bermuda grass typically goes dormant.

Augusta National’s turfgrass management program promotes healthy, dense turf that delivers consistent performance through careful mowing, fertilization, and irrigation.

Final Thoughts

The playing qualities that make a golf course an enjoyable test of skill for amateurs or a demanding championship layout require more than just thoughtful design.

The grasses established on the putting greens, fairways, tee boxes, and roughs enormously influence playability, aesthetics, and maintenance requirements.

While tight budgets and various climate types limit the options at any given facility, superintendents carefully select the best-adapted grass varieties and craft maintenance practices that allow them to thrive.

Different types of golf course grasses impact playability as much as design, enhancing the experience for many golfers. The superior putting green surfaces, various lies, and overall visual appeal produced by quality turfgrasses are essential to bringing a golf course to life.