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Golf Course Grass Types

When the majority of golfers play their ball, either from the tee, fairway, rough or green, not many will give a second thought about the hallowed turf beneath them and how it is different from the grass they mow back at home each week. In reality a great deal of consideration is given to ensure the best possible grass varieties are used. Grass selection is based on climate, soil type, water availability and quality and the playing characteristics required by the designer. There are many specialized varieties of turfgrass for golf courses some of which require intensive maintenance and careful cultural practices.

Here are some of the typical grass types found on golf courses.

Bentgrass – A grass often used on golf courses in northern Europe. The bentgrass varieties have many advantages as they can be mowed to a very short height and are ideal for highly-manicured areas such as tees, greens and fairways. There are various types but browntop bents are well adapted for maritime and coastal climates such as in the UK, while creeping bent is commonly used, especially on greens, in both cool and some warm climate regions.

Fescues – A large family of grasses which can be used on all areas of a golf course, most usually in cooler climates. They adapt well to less fertile conditions and although some varieties are appropriate for close mowing they are most often distinguishable as tall rough grasses, particularly on links courses.

Rye Grass – This cool-season grass is used for roughs and fairways. Its use on golf courses has increased due to the fact that it is hard wearing, tolerates close mowing and the ease with which it can be striped by reel mowers.

Kentucky Blue Grass or Smooth-stalked Meadow Grass – A grass used for fairways and roughs, largely in cool-season areas, but also in some humid regions.

Bermuda Grass – A warm season grass variety which is very heat tolerant and found on courses in southern Europe and the Middle East. Bermuda grass can be used on all areas of the golf course and is commonly propagated by sprigging.

Paspalum – A warm season grass which is tolerant of salt water and heat. It can be used for tees, greens, fairways and roughs and provides a very dark green colour.

Taking three of the courses we have designed with Colin Montgomerie as an example it is interesting to note the differences in grass selection at each.

1) The Montgomerie at The Dutch in The Netherlands has creeping bent greens with a browntop bent / fescue mix in the fairways.

2) The Montgomerie at Papillon Golf Club in Turkey has bermuda grass everywhere except for the greens which are creeping bent.

3) The Royal Golf Club at Riffa Views in Bahrain uses wall to wall paspalum.

Made in Scotland

He holds the record for the most appearances on the European Tour winning, over twenty times. He played for Europe in the Ryder Cup eight times and sunk the winning putt in 1985 to capture it back from the USA for the first time in 28 years. He went on to captain Europe in 2002 as Europe once again regained the trophy. Now playing on the European Senior Tour he won the 2009 Order of Merit.

Got it yet ? Easy, Sam Torrance. He must be one of the most popular and charismatic golfers in the world.

As well as his playing schedule and being a well loved TV commentator Sam is now involved in the design of a new golf course in Holland. The project named The Dutch is located in Spijk which is in the centre of Holland close to the town of Gorinchem approximately 40km east of Rotterdam.

It’s easy to see why Sam is such a well respected voice on TV. When he dropped by the office for a design meeting with lead designer Ross McMurray he was fascinating to listen to, and very humorous!

Sam is keen for his golf course at The Dutch to have a traditional feel in terms of its design. It should certainly have a Scottish flavour as it will feature a number of burns crossing golf holes in strategic places, and bunkers will be relatively small but deep enough to cost at least half a shot. But, most importantly, and like his personality, Sam wants the course to be great fun to play.


From left – Lead designer Ross McMurray, Sam Torrance, EGD Director Michael King

Groovey Kind of Love

As from Jan 1, 2010 the R&A and USGA rule regarding grooves shall come into enforcement for all professional golfers. The rule affects irons and wedges that have a loft greater than or equal to 25 degrees (a 5-iron and above). The rule is the result of research done by the R&A and the USGA into how the grooves on a club affects the amount of spin that can generate especially out of the rough. Basically the powers that be want to limit the amount of backspin that lofted clubs can achieve in the hope that wayward shots off the fairway into the rough will be more challenging to the player. The rule will specify that clubs have “V” shape grooves rather than the controversial Square “U” shaped grooves. It might be a step back in terms of technology but by reducing backspin this will increase stopping distances making it more desirable to hit fairways and place a premium on accuracy.

Anything that encourages players to be more accurate off the tee can only be a good thing. Golf should not be all about launching the ball into space but, surely, with an emphasis on shotmaking, strategy and skill. Players will need to be more proficient or less aggresive with an emphasis on course management. It will very be interesting to see how courses will be set up to account for this in the future and how players manage their game.

EGD designer Dave Sampson points out “there will be a ‘better’ position to be … whether in the fairway or rough. The professional golfers will still be able to control the ball from the fairway, however tee shots will now be enhanced / exaggerated / challenged as ‘control’ from the rough will no longer be a given.”

The change by the R&A and USGA shall be very interesting and the intent by the governing bodies is a very positive stance.

Spending a week with European Golf Design

By Charlie Jones

I was very excited to hear the news that on the 16th of November I would start a weeks work experience at European Golf Design. I have always been a keen golfer and I currently work at Dale Hill Golf Club so I was looking forward to seeing the design aspect of the golf industry.

Work experience is normally associated with photocopying paper and filing notes but this definitely was not the case! Monday morning came around quickly and after meeting the team I was put under the wing of Designer, Gary Johnston. My task, design a golf course! I was given a plot of land in Berlin and after getting familiar with the constraints and contours I set to work. I went home that night wishing golf courses only had 17 holes; it was proving a lot more difficult than I anticipated!

By Tuesday morning I had a good outline of where all my holes would be placed so that they were within the boundaries and complimented the land. I decided on an inner and outer loop design, with my front 9 as the outer loop and the back 9 as the inner loop. 

Now that my routing was set it was time to add the design features such as fairways, bunkers and greens. I learnt all about the different types of golf hole such as natural, strategic and penal. I tried to stick to a strategic design so that the golf course could be enjoyed by golfers of all standards. I continued my designing into Tuesday evening and had it ready for a big day on Wednesday, competition day!!!

Gary had informed me on Tuesday night that there would be a competition between me and another work experience student. We had to present 6 finished holes to him and fellow EGD designer Robin Hiseman and talk through all the reasoning behind the holes. Brian, my competitor was an experienced golfer studying golf science so I knew I was up against it! I kept my cards close to my chest and although I was slightly under prepared on technical issues of the course I was quietly confident going into the presentation room. Brian and I competently pitched our 6 holes and awaited a result. However, Like France vs Ireland a controversial decision was to follow! Gary and Rob called a draw! I was initially disappointed but a very worthwhile exercise, giving me a great chance to see how Brian had set about his course and what he’d done differently to me.

The week was going quickly and by Thursday I was on to grading the course. This was a concept I struggled to grasp straight away but Gary remained patient and did his best to show me the way. At this stage you have to focus in on one of your golf holes and add all your slopes, mounds and depressions. I managed to get two holes completed with all the interesting mounds and slopes I wanted whilst taking into account how the drainage would work. It’s easy to have the idea in your head but putting it onto paper for someone else to understand is quite a task!

Friday came around much too quickly for my liking but I had a great time working on my golf course and working here has made me even thirstier to pursue a career in the golf industry.

Lastly I need to say a few thank you’s:

To everyone for making me feel very welcome.
Gary – for teaching me everything I know about golf design
Jeremy – for setting everything up and allowing me to come here!

Charlie

Charlie, hard at work
Charlie hard at work.

2016 Olympic Games!

Following the recent announcements from Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman, we’d like to formally confirm our availability and desire to design the course for the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.

Football Mugs and Football Thugs

Football is well represented at EGD; it is often at the heart of a heated discussion especially on a Monday morning.

Starting in the back of the office we have Gary, a Glasgow Rangers fan, I don’t have much to say about Rangers apart from Gary could probably get in that team at the moment. It also helps getting tickets when your uncle is the Chairman!!

Robin and Dave are Spurs Fans. One would be too many. Sleeping Giants? I think they are in a coma. We mustn’t also forget Rob’s first love Halifax Town who languish in the Unibond league.

The Man Utd Mug belongs to Matt, he doesn’t like the diving that has come into the modern game and hates Ronaldo’s greasy hair, he was glad to see the back of him. His Favourite Utd player? I would say Wayne Rooney, of course, the toffees taught him everything that he knows.

Jeremy is a Gooner, he has not forked out for a mug though. Maybe he is not very proud. Or is it us? Maybe we haven’t seen it like Mr Wenger.

Sarah is a part time Liverpool fan, when they lose (quite often this season) she cheers on Fulham. I think she fits in better with the fans in South West London rather than the Merseysiders. She does own a pair of highly one sided Liverpool goggles though.

Shara, as far as I know the only team she supports is the one that her sons James and Sam play in. She is probably the most sensible of all of us.

Ross – he is a Hammer, currently they are in the relegation zone, the team that put them there last week with a win at Upton Park? Everton , that happens to be my team. The Pride of Merseyside.

Stan also likes football, his favourite team? The Chicago Bears. Huh.


Come on you Toffees!

Whistle While We Work

Paying a visit to European Golf Design can be a musical extravaganza. As you walk through the office a diverse array of musical tastes can be heard as you pass from office to office.

At EGD peoples doors are always open. First you pass by Stan Eby’s office, you’ll find him listening to classic 60’s & 70’s Rock, one of his favourites being Little Feat. Next you swing by Ross McMurray’s room, he’ll be generally sat at his drawing board tapping his foot away to the Blues.

When you enter the main office you can hear more than the sound of keyboards tapping and phones ringing. Generally it’s a mixture of the radio or peoples playlists on Napster. There’s 6 of us so banging out Metallica all day doesn’t please everybody!! It’s a fine balance, something interesting, but not too distracting, but there are times when you can’t beat the good old sound of silence.

Going past the print room you come to Robin Hiseman and Gary Johnston’s offices. The doors are right next to each other and standing outside you can sometimes be greeted by a wall of sound. There’s a mixture of Indie from Rob and Dance/Rock beats from Gary.

Let’s us know the music that does it for you when you’re designing or need inspiration at work?


Designer Stan Eby’s favourite – Lowell George and Little Feat

Another Notch on the Rack

In 2001, long before employment with EGD appeared on the horizon, I used to write articles for the national golf magazines.  One of these, for the Scottish golf mag, ‘Bunkered’, dealt with the impact of modern technology on the design of our historic golf courses.  To highlight the point I devised an apocalyptic scenario, whereby the R&A were compelled to abandon The Old Course as an Open venue. I  described the last act of its humiliating demise at the hands of a brash, teenage prodigy, who upon receiving the Claret Jug, promptly declares that he is quitting ‘real’ golf to concentrate on the more profitable ‘Virtual Golf World Series’.  The article is reproduced below, so you can read it for yourselves, but in summary, it forecasted the gradual distortion and stretching of The Old Course to match the relentless march of equipment technology, until it is decreed that professional golf has outgrown the Old Course and must move on.

Bunkered Magazine – June 2001 (Click to view PDF)

And so we come to the issue of the day; the extension of the Road Hole by building a new tee on the driving range.  Taken in isolation, it’s a good idea.  It’ll bring the driving zone back by 35 yards and hence make the challenge of the second shot more like it was in ‘the old days™’.  Great!  Problem solved!  Well…hang on a mo.  Is this measure correcting the problem, or merely accommodating it?  We all know that today’s pro golfers are blazing the ball much further than they used to.  A quick scan of the official European Tour driving stats will tell you that 156 golfers average more than 280 yards with their tee shots and 11 top an average of 300 yards!  That is an immense distance to hit a golf ball.  Yet the governing bodies will present statistics that supposedly prove that the golf ball is going only marginally further than it did 20 years ago.  Well, maybe Iron Byron needs to head down to the gym, because that is where the top pro’s are going.  Their better conditioning and swing techniques, combined with better balls, clubheads and shafts are beginning to make the forecast mockery of the Old Course a distinct reality.  Tacking on the odd tee here and there is not tackling the issue that is insidiously corroding the foundations of golf’s most cherished venue.

Back in 1984, Uwe Hohn trotted up to the plate and hurled a javelin into the air. 104.80 metres away, it came back to Earth.  In that time and distance the history of javelin competition changed forever.  The IAAF officials looked at each other and concluded that if they didn’t do something pretty damn fast, they were going to face the possibility of a steeplechase competitor, or even worse, a member of the crowd being speared.  So they changed the technical specification of the competition javelin and at a stroke knocked 15-20 metres off the throws.  The winner remained the competitor who threw it the furthest.  The value of victory was not diminished by the rule change and the sport continues, 25 years on, to be contained safely within the infield perimeter of a 400-metre track. 

Golf’s governing bodies could learn a lot from this example…