Turfgrass species for wet and shaded Par 3 tee boxes

Creeping bentgrass (Agrostis palustris) is a stolon-forming cool season grass commonly used on golf courses.  It has good shade tolerance, but if shaded, it will also need good drainage to thrive.  One of our MGCSA-member partners recently experienced what can happen when creeping bentgrass grows in shady and poor drainage conditions.

A newly-constructed creeping bentgrass tee opened for play in mid-summer of 2017. The site had morning shade caused by trees, which were off-limits to cut down, on adjacent property. In addition, the tee had poor surface and subsurface drainage. This led to algae and other diseases, along with excessive damage from foot traffic and golf club divots. After one month, the creeping bentgrass was seriously deteriorated.

A person examining turfgrass at a tee boxFigure 1. Deteriorated creeping bentgrass tee box on July 26, 2017. The tee box does not typically receive sunlight until about noon to 2pm.

Research question

How well would other turfgrass species or different planting rates work in this situation?

Study location

Stillwater Country Club (Superintendent – Marlin Murphy)

Treatments

The treatments (listed in the table below) consisted of eight species and one mixture, and 2 seeding rates.

Species, varieties and rates for treatmentsTable 1. The seeding treatments included several species planted at typical rates and at five times the normal rate.  MNST-12 is a mixture of Kentucky bluegrass and fine fescues (strong creeping red fescue, slender creeping red fescue, Chewings fescue, hard fescue, and sheep fescue).

Findings

Despite being known for having an “off’ yellowish-green color, we found that rough bluegrass provided the overall best results compared to the other species.  Across all treatments, higher planting rates increased the level of establishment.

Rough bluegrass plot with better quality turfFigure 2. Rough bluegrass (outlined plot) provided the best results in this study.

Takeaway

Rough bluegrass appeared to be the best option so we recommend trying this species for this specific situation.  Supina bluegrass (Poa supina) could be used as well.

A person measuring out plots on a golf courseTo submit your own idea for a MGCSA Member-Driven Research project to be carried out at your facility, please complete our Member-Driven Research Form.