How To Tell What Type Of Lawn You Have – Weed connoisseurs know that different varieties have different effects. Calm down, Spiccoli. We are talking about lawn grass. There are many varieties that suit different climates and have different properties that will have different consequences for you. This is a wide-ranging topic, too large to cover in a doctoral dissertation. What we can offer here are details and thumbnails from an expert.
His name is Shawn Westacott. He is the superintendent of the Comanche Trace club in Kerrville, Texas. He’s also a great player and a past winner of the Course Superintendents Association of America National Championship, an event that draws some damn good sticks. Given his experience growing and competing in a variety of turfs, we asked Westacott for his wheat marks on six common turf types, as well as some details on how each performs when properly maintained.
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When you hear top players talk about the grain, they often talk about Bermuda. they are not wrong. A durable, drought-tolerant, warm-season turf common in the South, Bermuda can get really grainy. But this quality is mitigated when the grass is cut closely, as the Tour pros like to do. According to Westacott, in this condition Bermuda provides a beautifully firm, fast and true surface. It can also be pure play as it gets longer and provides a cushion that most amateurs like.
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The thing is, the more Bermuda grows, the more grain it shows, which can affect everything from fairway roll to pace and putts. On approach shots from the fairway when you swing faster, you may not notice the effect of the grain. But this cannot be ignored on and around the greens. From chips shot into grain, Bermuda is notorious for sticks. Likewise, down or up putts can make the difference between a pitifully long or short bid. As a rule of thumb, if the grass looks shiny, put it in with the grain. If the lawn is a duller tone, the grain will run against you. Adjust accordingly.
Unlike your grandparents, Bengrass isn’t too interested in moving to Florida. A cool-season grass with thin blades that can be cut closely. Compared to Bermuda, bent grass has few grains. As with other types of turf, it can play differently depending on the region and season. But especially in the spring and fall, Westacott says, bentgrass in the Northeast is a thing of beauty, smooth, firm and fast on the fairways and greens.
Because bentgrass does not handle wilting heat well, it needs a lot of water when the temperature rises. Consequently, if you are playing on bent grass at the height of summer, the greens and fairways may be relatively soft. When it dries out, bent grass may turn slightly brown and show signs of stretching. But that doesn’t mean it’s doing poorly. In fact, Westacott says, bent grass is often best when it’s lightly stressed.
“Oh, he found the fescue.” When we hear that phrase, many of us imagine light, golden grasses tall enough to swallow Ian Woosnam. Fescue is, after all, the grass of the links, and it often populates those unmown native areas where you’d rather not hit your ball. However, fescue can also serve as a short grass, great for fairways, greens and tees for all sorts of reasons.
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Track managers love it for its easy maintenance. It grows slowly and needs mowing less often than many other grasses. It requires less water. As a playing surface, it could be called the purist’s preference, providing the firm, bouncy conditions we think of when we imagine across the pond.
If zoysia were a teenager, you might praise her for her posture. Stands straight, gives sweet lies in the fairway. “It’s pulled up on the ball so nicely it almost feels like cheating,” says Westacott.
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A warm-season grass that is cold-hardy enough for transition zones, zoysia also requires little water, which allows it to be more established than most grasses. Also, it has less grain than Bermuda, so that counts as well. If there’s a maintenance downside, Westacott says, it’s that zoysia is susceptible to disease and the protective applications it requires can get expensive, making it impractical for courses on a tight budget.
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However, from a player’s perspective, zoysia can be blissful. The only tricky thing is that zoysia can be “sticky,” says Westacott. “The blades are so stiff and tight that you think you hit a perfect shot and the grass just catches the ball.”
They love excuses and poa often serves as a scapegoat. An alternate logo for the PGA Tour could be a player pointing in frustration at a missed putt and blaming his poor stroke on the grass that caused this chilly season. Bad rap has its roots in reality. Poa grows quickly and the seed heads it produces can lead to late blight on the greens.
But the grass isn’t perfect either. And when Westacott talks about poa, he sticks more to its strengths. It not only tolerates low light conditions and wet environments, but also withstands heavy traffic. A properly maintained poa can be played as cleanly as any surface. “Winged Foot’s greens are poa,” says Westacott. “And you won’t find better tablecloths than those.” (Poa is also found in Pebble and is the dominant strain of Oakmont’s fabled greens).
What’s more, the same seeds that some players rave about can be a plus, says Westacott. “Sometimes I find it hard to pick out the lines in bent or Bermuda,” he says. “But the poa often has a small seed head or a slight discoloration that makes it easier to find the string.”
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If bent grass and Bermuda are the János and Pál of the lawn world, ryegrass is more like Ringó. He’s not the biggest star, but take him away and you can spoil the show.
Commonly used in fall overlays, ryegrass often takes the stage when Bermuda goes dormant, livening up the look and playability. Rye requires a fair amount of water, so if you play a course shortly after oversowing, expect soft conditions. For the same reason, rye can sometimes feel a bit “sticky,” says Westacott.
But it has many winning qualities. Westacott says rye has a fine texture and grows vertically, allowing for nice striping and other aesthetic mowing patterns. Like many beautiful things, it can be fragile. It doesn’t handle heat well, and if you mow it too low, it won’t keep intruders away for long. These qualities help explain why courses do not use rye on greens. But elsewhere, rye can be a primo surface. The Masters, for example, are played on courses covered with rye. If that’s good enough for Augusta, nuff said.
Josh Sens is a food and travel writer who has been with the magazine since 2004 and now contributes to all platforms. His work was anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is the co-author with Sammy Hagar of Are We Have Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.
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Are you arguing with your neighbors about what type of weed is taking over your lawn? Quackgrass vs. no one wins the crabgrass debate; these coarse and ubiquitous grasses can stain a previously immaculate lawn or infest your once-tended flowerbeds. And both will probably be growing somewhere on the property. However, controlling them can be challenging as they self-seed prolifically. So if you want to get rid of them, you better not let the grass grow under your feet! Need a hand with your lawn? A lawn care service can help. Get free, no-obligation estimates from experts near you. Find a Pro +
Or couch grass) survives the winter in these areas to plague the lawn again in the spring, both with old plants and new seedlings.
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) species, it is a low-growing annual grass that will probably die after the first fall frost, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone for good. All of the thousands of seeds you sowed before dying will sprout in the spring unless you take steps to prevent them.
What does quackgrass look like? An upright grower that is usually a bit bluer in color than turf grass, cabbage grass can grow up to 4 feet tall if left unmown and often has auricles (white ear-like projections) at the base of its leaves. Because