The push for adding naturalized native grasses to golf courses has been ongoing for a while now. Long enough, certainly, to realize it’s no passing fad. Naturalizing areas of your golf course – either altogether new areas or enlarging already native areas – is something most of us have been doing for some time.
And the fight we used to have in the past with the powers at be at our operations – to go native – is becoming less and less of a battle. Almost everyone is onboard with this new era of golf course management – managing not just for playability, but for the environment as well.
One of the reasons this battle has been easier to fight is the fact that we can save those powers that be significant money. Cost savings tend to go hand in hand with naturalizing areas of the golf course – areas in the past were maintained at low cutting heights and treated with pesticides, fertilizers and all that precious water.
But, just in case we need a refresher, here are a lucky seven proven reasons native grass plantings can benefit any golf course:
1. The aforementioned cost savings.
No (or at least very little) mowing, no irrigation, no chemical applications. Not to mention little to no labor.
And you basically plant them and watch them grow.
2. Visually stunning.
Native grasses mixed in amongst our many shorter cuts of turf throughout the course can look absolutely amazing. Nothing beats the look of tall wispy buffalograss blowing gently in the breeze alongside a bentgrass fairway.
When we stop irrigating areas of the golf course, we are not only saving money, but we are helping the planet. With dire predictions of future water shortages (some of which are already occurring), the ability to use less water is a no brainer.
Tall grasses can challenge players. Many golf courses fell prone to the wall-to-wall short grass manicured look that took over in the 1990s and early part of this century. This not only took away from a “natural” feel to these golf courses, but it also made them a bit boring and less challenging.
Tall grasses add a bite to the course, especially when planted in strategic locations. Adding a native grass between a tee and fairway is one way to toughen a hole, as is surrounding a green with some as well.
5. They are perennial.
As mentioned, once we propagate these areas, there is little to be done to them. Some we mow once a year, maybe twice at most. Some not at all. In most cases there is no need for reseeding or replanting.
6. They attract wildlife.
Another environmental perk is these grasses tend to be accompanied with a VACANCY sign for all insects and animals. If you take the time to track such things, you will definitely see an increase in the diversity of your wildlife within these areas.
And not only are you attracting new critters, but also in some cases you are giving those you already have a better, more suitable home. Finely manicured turf that is populated with a large amounts of human activity can be a rough home for certain animals, although they give it their best shot. These native grasses give some of them a welcome, more private alternative.
Another catchy environmental word, this one seems to sum up everything that is environmentally good about planting native grasses on a golf course. Biodiversity is, essentially, the number of plants, animals and other organisms that exist within our own ecosystem. The more the merrier. But one must also consider there are limitations, based on each golf course’s geographic location, to biodiversity. We can only play the hand we are dealt.
Keep in mind the word native in native grass plantings. Don’t let yourself be talked into exotic plantings that are not suited for your climate or environment. Native grasses are just that: grasses native to your area. A native grass is one that will thrive in your environment, on your golf course.