Counting Down, Top 5 Posts of 2009
IGU South Zone Greenkeeper Education Programme at Mysore

An Observation About Deep Rough on Tropical Golf Courses

Mysore
Grazed native grass near Mysore, India

I'm sometimes asked what grass species should be used for a deep rough on a tropical golf course. Golf course architects or golf course developers sometimes want something that can provide a contrast to the highly-maintained fairways, yet still remain playable. "Something that looks and plays like fine fescue," I've heard.

In Southeast Asia the grass planted frequently in these areas is bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum). But one struggles to find a ball hit into this grass, let alone play from it, and I advocate a different approach.

Samui
Bahiagrass rough in Surat Thani, Thailand

I know this type of surface can be produced in a tropical environment. I've written about it in Golf Course Architecture magazine. But my approach involves management, not planting a specific species, and certainly not planting a monostand of bahiagrass.

Bohol
Grazed warm-season grasses, primarily Chrysopogon aciculatus, in Bohol, Philippines

By looking at the landscape around tropical parts of Asia, one sees that this type of wispy rough, one which would provide a contrast to the maintained fairway, and one in which one could easily find and play a golf ball, is actually quite common. 

From fields grazed by sheep in India to fields grazed by cattle and goats in the Philippines and Japan, these grasses, no matter what they are, produce a wispy tall rough. These areas are not fertilized (except by the animals), are not irrigated, and clippings are harvested. On golf courses, a similar surface could be produced by simulated grazing. Withhold irrigation, don't fertilize, mow infrequently and remove clippings. If the grass grows too fast, slightly compact the soil to reduce the amount of water and soil nutrients available to the grass.

Ishigaki
Grazed pasture at Ishigaki, Japan; low-growing grasses are primarily Zoysia and Digitaria species; tall grass clumps are Sporobolus indicus
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