Saving some green for area golf courses

By Daniel Johnson

With the mind-numbing amounts of reminders to “Go Green” from groups ranging from car companies to national television campaigns, another local movement is focused on a more literal green.

Graduate student Matthew Mechenes, in conjunction with the college of ACES, has worked with soil and grass research in finding ways to incorporate naturalized landscapes at golf courses.

Mechenes said his study was done to continue previous work done by University Extension specialist Thomas Voigt. The research was mainly based on finding a more economical solution for golf courses to use as grass for their rough, Mechenes said.

“We were trying to find a good solution that would be helpful with the cost-benefit of the course,” he said. “It might be well and good to have a very finely manicured course, but superintendents and course managers that are trying to find the most cost efficient options should be considering natural grasses.”

Mechenes said some courses are choosing to have grass brought in for the entire landscape, making it easier for patrons to play on but much more expensive for the course.

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“With native grasses and plants, you have perennials, you don’t have to replant or reseed, you have it already, year to year,” he said. “In addition, There is not nearly as much of a need for pesticides, water consumption and labor, among other things. It’s money that a course would save yearly.

“Additionally, it makes the course more aesthetically pleasing to the eye in most cases, too; you have a more natural setting with these local grasses.”

Mechenes’ study examined two types of Illinois-native grasses: blue gamma and the Cody variety of buffalo grass. He and Voigt said the two types were used in previous studies at the University and each showed potential to be used in golf courses’ rough grass.

The second cut of the rough – the longer cut grass that penalizes players for not hitting into the fairway – is likely the most useful place for the natural grasses.

“If you look at courses, if a groundskeeper wants to challenge the players, this is something that he’ll want to consider,” Mechenes said. “You wouldn’t be able to use this for the first cut, it’d be too hard, but from the second cut on, you would be able to use this, especially on a more difficult course.”

The recent graduate of Illinois used 20 pounds of seed per acre in his study, after finding it as the ideal amount; the project was funded by various local and national golf superintendent associations.