A University of Minnesota scientist says many golf courses could be a lot more friendly to the environment if they were engineered to use different turf grasses that require less water and fewer chemicals. Turf grass specialist and Prof. Brian Horgan wants to use 14 years of research to convert the university’s entire Les Bolstad Golf Course to those practices, making it a national model for thousands of other aging courses that need to be renovated.
“This is an area that’s ripe for leadership,” Horgan said, since about one-third of the nation’s 15,000 golf courses need to be renovated in the next few years with updated drainage and irrigation systems and other improvements.
Horgan said some courses, especially in Minnesota and other northern states, might benefit from switching grasses, as well. Most links usually plant bentgrass, Kentucky bluegrass or some of each.
But a different type — fine fescue grasses — typically require less water, less fertilizer, fewer pesticides and less frequent mowings. Horgan and others have been studying different varieties of fescue as part of the “Science of [the] Green” initiative.
“We’re trying to make sure we’re identifying the best way to be better stewards for the environment by utilizing the right grasses and using the right management systems,” he said. Sustainability includes both economic and environmental stewardship.
Golf courses often have about 100 acres of managed turf, including 30 acres of fairways and 50 acres of rough, Horgan said.