Does Green Really Equal Good?

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence...... Is it Really?

People are almost conditioned to associate grass on golf courses with being bright, lush and green. Images are shown on TV from the latest PGA tournament of perfect uniform playing surfaces that are a consistent shade of vibrant green. Glossy photos leap out of the pages of magazines to try and entice players to play the latest course or to demonstrate that the key to fixing your slice is too tee it up amidst agronmic perfection.

Augusta National is surely the poster child for consistency and uniformity

Looks are nice but what about playabilty? Golf is a game after all so shouldn't we be evaluating playability as the most important aspect of a golf course?

              "Golf, as a game, at its roots has long been played on dry firm surfaces and the unpredictability of the contours were integral in how the game was played. These core principles invoke the true spirit of the game and players are required to adapt and use their mental game as well as physical to test themselves against the course on the day" - Unknown

The above quote does a great job of stripping things back to a base level. Golf is played with a hard round ball designed to roll and bounce. Seeing a ball deflect off a slope and follow the natural contours towards the target is a real joy. Equally satisfying is the knowledge that, as the player, you were able to read the situation in front of you and predict then execute, allowing for influence of the surfaces accordingly.

The problem with the push for lush green grass is that the required inputs (water and fertiliser) actually have a negative impact on the firmness and therefore bounce of the ball. Excess water keeps the soil moist which in turn makes it soft. Over zealous use of fertiliser makes grass lush, juicy and encourages thatch which leads to slow spongy surfaces. Think about how much more fun golf becomes as the course transitions from winter to spring. Suddenly the ball starts to roll again and those holes that were out of reach are now being threatened again as the ball bounds along the ground.

Golf is a game. Games should be fun........

Note the tawny brown fairway leading into this green. Isn't it easy to picture the ball bouncing running towards the hole? FUN!!!!

One of the truly great things about golf is that all of its venues and therefore playing experiences are different. Rugby, bowls, netball, tennis etc are all played on standardized playing fields with consistent dimensions. Golf is not and the variety of teeing it up at a different course to play different holes keeps things fresh and invigorating. The same is true of your own course with tee placements, hole locations and weather combining to vary the experience from day to day. It makes sense then that the playability of the course should also differ with the seasons and weather.

It can be difficult to divorce looks and be objective in assessing how a surface actually plays and its not uncommon to hear negative feedback about greens quality. Understandably, the greens are the main focal point of any course and in the course of a round many shots interact with the putting surface. As discussed earlier though, we need to be basing our evaluation on how they play as opposed solely on how they look.

Its important to try and get past this mindset:

This green was deliberately dried out to stress out the poa annua. It certainly doesn't look lush and green

Here are balls being rolled across the same green from about 45 feet. Despite the "Look" of the green, the balls roll with near identical consistency

Welcome to every greenkeepers favourite conversation:

"The greens were pretty average today"

"Sorry to here that. Were they bumpy?"


"Ok, were they not true and rolling poorly?"


"Ok, they must have been soft and spongy then"


"Right, I suppose they could be a bit faster?"

"No, the speed was really good...."

"So what exactly was wrong with the greens then?"

"They didnt look right"

Good Golfing

The Maintenance Team

Hamilton Golf Club


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