The long Aidil Fitri leave (I took about a week off) at the beginning of July took a toll on my schedule. Last week was a pretty hectic week. Looking back at last week, I was struck by the coincidence that on Monday I was consulting a golf course with Tifeagle greens; Tuesday Tifdwarf; Wednesday Serangoon and on Thursday it was a golf course with greens covered with Zoysia . On Friday I visited two football fields in two different states with grass that in Malaysia we call cacamerba grass. Saturday morning found me on another football field that I was working on myself.
Ya, I took a side job maintaining a football field mainly because I got tired of the maintaining-a-football-field-is-harder-than-a-golf-course-you-wouldn’t-know-coz-you’ve-never-done-it argument. Well now I have and I’m pretty sure the field looked much better than it did before. Maintaining a football field, to me is like maintaining the fairway of a golf course, though I would treat the area in front of the goal like greens with more frequent cultural practice and tender loving care. It wasn’t hard at all. Well, maybe except for the area in front of the goal but fortunately, the football team have agreed to purchase a mobile goalpost for their practice sessions (think of moving the pins on the greens to spread the wear and tear).
Anyway, this article is about the grass on greens. I didn’t realise we had that many variety on Malaysian greens, though some golfers may argue on many golf courses there’s a lot more variety of grass on just one green! Tifdwarf offtypes, weeds, algae and one green with palm tree in the middle notwithstanding, Malaysian golfers do have a choice of grass to putt on. Other than the four I mentioned earlier, we also have Mini-Verde, Bentgrass Penn A4 (in Cameron Highlands, I’m not sure what Bentgrass variety was planted at that Sabah highland course) and also not forgetting Paspalum Supreme on Malaysia’s premier course.
Grass species doesn’t affect greenspeed as much as what many golfers, club management and owners think. Granted, some grass species can be mowed at lower heights and that is one factor for greenspeed but I have seen Tifeagle mown at 3.5 mm with speeds of around 7’5″ and I’ve seen Tifdwarf cut at 4.2 mm with speeds of up to 11’9″ and that measurement was taken by tournament referees, not club staff. The golf course with Serangoon greens I visited a few days ago? After just one roll I saw the speed on one green went up from 8’8″ to 9’7″ at the cutting height of 4mm.
What works at one golf course may not work on another for whatever reason that may not fit the species. It could be climate or local conditions like shade or management practices, old habits or even budget. Many Malaysian clubs are willing to spend a lot of money during construction but balk at the comparatively higher maintenance cost a few years down the road.
About the golf course with Zoysia greens; please don’t ask me the name of the club because they haven’t actually embraced it yet. It started out as a golf course with a lot of weeds on the greens. I’m talking about big areas of Cowgrass (Axonopus compressus), spurge, sedges and of course Zoysia encroaching from the rough. In the first few months I realised that ridding the greens of weeds was a losing battle because of many factors so I decided to do what a doctor friend of mine call the concept of ‘triage’ where you help those that can be saved and leave those that can’t for later, if you have time.
Now some of the greens there are about 80% Zoysia. They look good, much better than before though admittedly, they putt slow. I’ve made some suggestions to fasten it up a bit but going from experience, it’ll be a few months before they get the hang of any new maintenance practice. When they do and start to market their unique greens as such, you as a golfer should try it out. Expand your experience, if it’s slow, adjust your putting. The only time you should have a problem with greenspeed, is when the speed on the 18 greens are inconsistent from one green to the other. Otherwise, by the third green, you should already get the hang of any reasonable speed.
I’ve been lucky to have worked with many of the grasses I mentioned above on an official basis whether as superintendent, club manager or as consultant. Didn’t the English say that ‘Variety is the spice of life’? It’s made for an interesting career.
I do recommend you try playing as many grasses on greens as possible. They are quite different to putt on you know. How different? Go ahead and play them. If you know the grass is different but you can’t feel/see the difference: try playing again. You’ll soon see, I’m sure, that it’ll enrich your experience as a golfer, even as it makes you poorer financially.