Turf and Native Grasses for Naturalized Roughs - Golf Institute


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Turf and Native Grasses for Naturalized Roughs - Golf Institute

  1. 1. The Environmental Institute for Golf provided some of the funding for this research. RESEARCH SCIENCE FOR THE GOLF COURSE dedicated to enriching the environment of golf Turf and native grasses for naturalized roughs Blue grama is one of the native grasses identified as suitable for unmowed roughs. Tom Voigt, Ph.D. The Americanization of golf has given us golf courses where the land’s natural features are converted into uniform surfaces on which a “golf ball could travel virtually unhindered” (6). However, although intensely maintained turf is expected on in-play areas, many courses are interested in creating naturalized far-rough areas (4). Naturalized areas can be unmowed nonnative turfgrasses such as fine and tall fescues; native grasses, including buf- falograss and blue grama (Figure 1); or prai- rie areas of native forbs (herbaceous broadleaf plants), sedges and grasses (2,8-12). These out-of-play areas can reduce maintenance inputs (1) and enhance the golfing experience by breaking up the mowed turf and increas- ing wildlife diversity (5,6). Since 1988, students, professional turf staff and I have conducted several studies to Photos by T. Voigt evaluate forbs, sedges and native and non- native grasses at the University of Illinois Landscape Horticulture Research Center in Urbana (7), as well as at golf courses in cen- Figure 1. Blue grama-buffalograss plots as they appear in July before flowering. tral and northeastern Illinois (8-12). These studies have evaluated suitable plants and tainable, having been on site for more than a research information for superintendents, maintenance practices to help superinten- century. In addition, some of the unmowed committee members and others interested in dents create and manage native and natural rough areas at Chicago GC are playable, the golf course environment. rough areas. The most recent study, com- meaning that the plant growth is open enough The overall goal of this study was to iden- pleted in fall 2005, was conducted at the to allow golfers to locate and play errant shots. tify grasses that can be planted successfully in Chicago District Golf Association Midwest Several of the most prevalent native grasses at Midwestern unmowed rough areas, but we Golf House short course located at Cog Hill the site were identified in hopes of using some also hoped to determine whether the grasses Golf Course in Lemont, Ill. This setting is of the species in our research. form a rough from which errant shots can be readily available to Chicago-area golf person- Research for the second part of the proj- located and played. The objectives for reach- nel and is an outstanding site for presenting ect was located near Cog Hill, a major Chi- ing these goals were: identify the native grasses research at field days. cago-area golf complex and current home of and forbs found in the unmowed roughs at In the first part of the project, unmowed the Cialis Western Open. The Midwest Golf Chicago GC; develop research plots at the roughs at Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Ill., House setting has the unique objective of Midwest Golf House short course comprising were examined and used as a model. Approxi- combining golf instruction for youth and dis- various turfgrasses and native and naturalized mately half of the rough area had only been abled golfers with golf turf research and dem- grasses currently grown in unmowed rough grazed before the club’s construction in 1892, onstrations. The location and the facilities areas at Midwestern golf courses; and (3) host and the plants in the rough are certainly sus- provide an outstanding setting for generating research field days at Midwest Golf House. September 2006 GCM 89089-106_Sept06.indd 89 8/15/06 1:59:36 PM
  2. 2. RESEARCH What did we do? Miller of the Chicago District Golf Foun- dation; and Jon Jennings, CGCS, a Class A, Objective 1 22-year GCSAA member. Our goal was to Other than occasional mowing and, more collect and identify grasses in the playable recently, burning, the roughs at Chicago GC portions of the unmowed roughs. have seen little disturbance for more than 110 years. Roughs comprising similar species are Objective 2 virtually nonexistent at other Chicago-area Two experiments were planted at Midwest courses, where most likely more disturbances Golf House (Tables 1, 2), where the native have occurred. More important, the roughs soil is Markham silt loam. Both experiments at Chicago GC allow some playability. These were irrigated only to ensure germination; settings are dense enough to impede weed they were not fertilized, and they were mowed invasion, but open enough to allow a golfer only once each year in late September. to locate and hit a ball out of the rough. The Blue grama and buffalograss. In our first roughs are not irrigated or fertilized, and the experiment in June 2003, we planted warm- soil is fine-textured and classified as Urban season grasses, predominantly blue grama land-Orthents complex, clayey. (Bouteloua gracilis) and buffalograss (Buchloë In August 2003, I visited Chicago GC dactyloides), which are potentially suitable for in the company of Ken Robertson, Ph.D., a a playable unmowed rough (Table 1). Plots plant taxonomist at the Illinois Natural His- Figure 2. Flowering purple love grass plants put on a show were irregularly shaped and approximately 50 tory Survey; Randy Kane, Ph.D., and Lee in August. square feet (4.6 square meters). Small amounts WARM-SEASON GRASSES FOR UNMOWED ROUGHS Pounds/1,000 No. of No. of blue No. of side-oats Plot no./grasses Grams/plot* square feet buffalograss burs grama seeds grama seeds 1. 100% buffalograss 45.4 2 5,600 0 0 2. 100% blue grama 45.4 2 0 82,500 0 3. 25% buffalograss/75% 11.35/34.05 0.5/1.5 1,400 61,875 0 blue grama 4. 50% buffalograss/50% 22.7/22.7 1/1 2,800 41,250 0 blue grama 5. 75% buffalograss/25% 34.05/11.35 1.5/0.5 4,200 20,625 0 blue grama 6. 25% buffalograss/70% 11.35/31.78/2.27 0.5/1.4/0.1 1,400 57,750 955 blue grama/5% side-oats grama 7. 45% buffalograss/45% 20.43/20.43/4.54 0.9/0.9/0.2 2,520 37,125 1,910 blue grama/10% side-oats grama 8. 70% buffalograss/25% 31.78/11.35/2.27 1.4/0.5/0.1 3,920 20,625 955 blue grama/5% side-oats grama 9. 100% buffalograss + 12 45.4 2 5,600 0 0 purple love grass 10. 100% blue grama + 12 45.4 2 0 82,500 0 purple love grass 11. 50% buffalograss/50% 22.7/22.7 1/1 2,800 41,250 0 blue grama + 12 purple love grass *Each plot is 50 square feet or 4.6 square meters. Table 1. Warm-season grasses planted to determine suitability for planting in unmowed roughs. 90 GCM September 2006089-106_Sept06.indd 90 8/15/06 1:59:44 PM
  3. 3. RESEARCH of side-oats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) Objective 2 were included in some plots, as were plants Blue grama. In experiment 1, all of the of purple love grass (we were unable to find a warm-season species eventually became estab- source for purple love grass seed) (Figure 2). lished, but blue grama was the only seeded Fescues. In anticipation of this project, grass that performed adequately. For a warm- Aurora Gold hard fescue (Festuca longifolia season native species, blue grama germinated Aurora Gold) and Tomahawk RT tall fes- quickly, within two to four weeks of seeding. cue (F. arundinacea Tomahawk RT), which Its height was variable to 24 inches (0.6 meter) had been identified by Turf Seed Inc. as tol- when flowering, and it was not excessively erant of low levels of the nonselective herbi- dense; in 2004, golf balls thrown into these cide glyphosate, were planted in September plots were easy to find and hit out because of 2002 (Table 2) into plots of 48 square feet the open canopy. Although the low density is (4.5 square meters). desirable for playability, it can lead to weed At many Chicago-area courses, fine fescues invasions, particularly by cool-season grasses are used in unmowed areas. Establishment such as tall fescue or brome (Bromus species) by seed is mostly trouble-free and relatively or broadleaved species such as horseweed inexpensive. Moreover, selective herbicides (Erigeron canadensis) or sweet clovers (Meli- can be used to control weeds in these areas. lotis species). Plots comprising primarily blue These grasses also tolerate dry, infertile set- grama appear to be very well suited to produc- tings. Fine fescues are attractive in spring and ing playable unmowed roughs and will be the early summer during initial growth and then Figure 3. Unmowed tall fescue forms a dense turf. main focus of a new project. during flowering, but they can become mat- Buffalograss. After two growing seasons, ted later in the growing season. They also tend What did we learn? buffalograss began to fill the plots where it was to grow poorly where soils are wet or heavily planted, but the slow germination, establish- compacted. Objective 1 ment and coverage renders it unacceptable by Tall fescue is also sometimes used in out- Although many of the grasses pres- itself. Its height (up to 12 inches [0.3 meter]) of-play unmowed areas. Tall fescue is easy to ent in the unmowed rough areas of Chi- and low density make it playable, but it needs establish, tolerant of many herbicides, usually cago GC were nonnative turf species, we to be combined with the more rapidly devel- does not mat following flowering and toler- (Kane, Robertson, Jennings and I) identi- oping blue grama for it to be recommended. ates a wide range of soil conditions. It is, how- fied several natives, including purple love Side-oats grama. Side-oats grama germi- ever, taller and less attractive than the fine grass (Eragrostis spectabilis), big bluestem nated more slowly than blue grama and was fescues (Figure 3). (Andropogon gerardii) and old-field panic not a major component in the grass mixes. Its For each fescue, we planted several densi- grass (Dichanthelium acuminatum subspecies flowers occur on one side of a common stem, ties with the hopes of periodically using the lindheimeri). Of greatest potential utility for creating an interesting appearance, but its herbicide to reduce weeds in a playable thin playable unmowed roughs is purple love grass height (up to 40 inches [1.0 meter]) is taller stand of turf. In an attempt to reduce the or tumble-grass. than desired for a playable area (Figure 4). density of some treatments, annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum) seed was included. The plots were treated with low label rates of GLYPHOSATE-TOLERANT GRASSES AND SEEDING RATES glyphosate in June 2003 and 2004, resulting Seeding rates in good weed control and without causing Plot no./turfgrass Grams/plot* Pounds/1,000 square feet damage to the fescues. 1. Aurora Gold hard fescue 10.9 0.5 Objective 3 2. Aurora Gold hard fescue 21.7 1 In October 2003, approximately 15 turf 3. Aurora Gold hard fescue 43.5 2 industry professionals attended an informal 4. Aurora Gold hard fescue 87 4 Open House at Midwest Golf House, where research and demonstrations were displayed. 5. Aurora Gold hard fescue 87 + 43.5 (annual ryegrass) 4 + 2 (annual ryegrass) The following year in September 2004, the 6. Tomahawk RT tall fescue 43.5 2 Illinois Turfgrass Foundation, the Chicago 7. Tomahawk RT tall fescue 87 4 District Golf Association and turf staff from the University of Illinois hosted a research 8. Tomahawk RT tall fescue 130.5 6 field day at the Midwest Golf House site for 9. Tomahawk RT tall fescue 130.5 + 43.5 (annual ryegrass) 4 + 2 (annual ryegrass) interested golf course superintendents and *Each plot is 48 square feet or 4.5 square meters. others involved in the golf industry. Approxi- Table 2. Grasses and seeding rates in glyphosate tolerance study. mately 160 turf professionals attended. September 2006 GCM 91089-106_Sept06.indd 91 8/15/06 1:59:53 PM
  4. 4. RESEARCH Purple love grass. Purple love grass is a short (to 30 inches [0.76 meter]) warm-sea- son species that commonly occurs on sandy sites throughout Illinois (3). It appears to be a bunch-type grass, although short rhizomes ➤ Several grasses were tested in an effort to identify native or nonnative grasses suitable are usually formed. Scattered in small quanti- for unmowed roughs. ties, its short height and attractive red-purple ➤ Blue grama alone, or blue grama amended with purple love grass and/or buffalograss can panicles in August enhance the golfing expe- be tentatively recommended for playable unmowed roughs at Midwestern golf courses. rience and make it a suitable component for ➤ Aurora Gold hard fescue or Tomahawk RT tall fescue cannot be recommended for playable unmowed roughs. unmowed roughs. Fescues. In experiment 2, both the hard ➤ Future research should focus on identifying the best blue grama cultivars for playable and tall fescues germinated and estab- unmowed roughs, determining the best method to reduce dead aboveground plant material lished successfully. Because of applications and reduce weeds, and developing weed control programs. of glyphosate and the overall density of the plantings, weeds were not a problem. Even at the lowest seeding densities, however, finding Conclusions and future work Acknowledgments and hitting an errant golf ball in these plant- In this study, we have identified grasses For assistance with this project, I thank the Chicago ings was difficult to impossible. In addition, District Golf Association turf staff at Midwest Golf House, believed to be suitable for unmowed playable particularly Randy Kane, Ph.D., director of turfgrass pro- after flowering, the hard fescue tended to fall roughs in the Midwest. We anticipate that grams, Chicago District Golf Association. I also thank Ken and become tangled, increasing the difficulty by planting these species, superintendents Robertson, Ph.D., of the Illinois Natural History Survey, in finding and hitting a golf ball (Figure 5). can reduce labor, water and fertilizer inputs and Jonathan S. Jennings, CGCS at Chicago GC, for their involvement in this project. Unfortunately, in 2004, golf balls thrown compared to mowed rough areas, and also into any of these plots were difficult to find enhance wildlife environments and provide Literature Cited and nearly impossible to hit out because of a more interesting experience for golfers. We 1. Iacobelli, P. 2005. Natural golf courses redefine plant density. This was even true in plots green. www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8418445. Verified cannot recommend Aurora Gold hard fes- June 29, 2006. seeded at the lowest rates. cue or Tomahawk RT tall fescue for playable 2. Johnson, P.G., and T.P. Riordan. 1999. Buffalo- unmowed roughs. grass: Home on the range. Golf Course Management Objective 3 Following this work, we can tentatively 67(6):66-70. 3. Mohlenbrock, R.H. 2001. The illustrated flora of Illi- Our 2004 field day generated much inter- recommend blue grama alone or blue grama nois grasses: Panicum to Danthonia. Southern Illinois est in playable unmowed roughs; I routinely amended with purple love grass and/or buf- University Press, Carbondale and Edwardsville. receive questions about plant selection, plant- falograss for playable unmowed roughs at 4. Ostmeyer, T. 2000. A look for the ages: Native land- ing and management. Drop-in visitors also Midwestern golf courses. We believe that the scaping has carved a solid niche in today’s golf course development and management. Golf Course have come to review this project and other height and densities of these plantings will Management 68(11):20-35. ongoing turf research activities. This group allow golfers to find and play errant shots, 5. Santiago, M.J., and A.D. Rodewald. 2004. Consid- has included golf course managers and super- and the appearance of the unmowed warm- ering wildlife in golf course management. Extension intendents, green committee members and Fact Sheet, School of Natural Resources, The Ohio season grasses will contrast successfully with State University, Columbus. other trade members of the turf and land- managed cool-season turf on in-play areas. 6. Tiegte, R.M. 1992. Wildlife and golf courses. In: J.C. scape industries. Additional research should be conducted Balogh and W.J. Walker, eds. Golf course manage- based on these field studies. First, we need to ment and construction environmental issues. Lewis Publishers, Chelsea, Mich. identify the best blue grama cultivars for play- 7. Voigt, T. 1993. Ornamental native grasses. Grounds able unmowed roughs. Several types having Maintenance 28(3):48-57. different color, heights and densities are cur- 8. Voigt, T.B. 1996. Native grasses flourish on Midwestern golf courses. Golf Course Management 64(11):58-62. rently available. Second, is mowing or burn- 9. Voigt, T. 1999. Natives in unlikely surroundings. Illinois ing the best method to reduce dead above- Steward. Department of Natural Resources and Envi- ground plant material and reduce weeds? If ronmental Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana. burning is preferable, should it be done in 10. Voigt, T. 2000. Native Midwestern plants for golf course landscapes. Erigenia 18:56-63. autumn or spring? Finally, weed-control pro- 11. Voigt, T. 2001. Native plants for Midwestern golf grams should be developed because weeds courses. Golf Course Management 69(12):63-67. pose the greatest management problem in 12. Voigt, T., and J. Tallarico. 2004. Turf and native these areas. Individual and combinations of grasses for out-of-play areas. Golf Course Manage- ment 72(3):109-113. chemical weed controls need to be evaluated. Funding The Environmental Institute for Golf, the Midwest Association of Golf Course Superintendents, the Illinois Tom Voigt, Ph.D. (tvoigt@uiuc.edu), is an associate pro- Figure 4. Side-oats grama flowers, while attractive, may be Turfgrass Foundation and the University of Illinois Agricul- fessor and turfgrass Extension specialist at the University too tall for a playable rough. ture Experiment Station supported this research. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. 92 GCM September 2006089-106_Sept06.indd 92 8/15/06 2:00:01 PM