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6 Types Of Golf Course Grass And How To Adjust Your Game To Each

Grass on a golf course

For many enthusiasts, golf is as good as it gets. A.A. Milne, the author of Winnie the Pooh and himself a very competent golfer, once said: “Golf is so popular simply because it is the best game in the world at which to be bad.” How true!

However, similar to tennis, your golf game will depend on the type of turf you’re playing on. Not all surfaces are created or perform the same, and adjusting your game style to each one is one of the big considerations for players.

As any avid golfer knows, there are significant variations between different grasses and how they may affect a game. This article will provide an overview of six of the most common types of golf course grass and how to adjust your game to each.

1. Bentgrass

Bentgrass is a multi-variety grass that’s among the most popular types of grass used for golf courses. It’s the ideal putting green because it’s a short, even, and flat grass. It has that thick, mat-like appearance which is great for a smooth surface. Like any grass, it still requires typical golf maintenance inputs, such as irrigation, pesticides, and fertilizers.

Unfortunately, bentgrass is horrible in hot climates, which means it’s primarily used in cooler climes in the US, such as courses in the Pacific Northwest and New England. It’s also commonly used for putting greens in the UK and Ireland.

You’ll need to play with more break on bentgrass greens. Know that your ball will roll quickly, so easy on that putt! Even in cooler climates, bentgrass may feel very soft in the summer months, and can even get slightly brown. However, bentgrass is known to be great for play when slightly stressed.

2. Bermuda Grass

Bermuda grass loves extreme heat, high humidity, and little shade. So, the hotter and harsher the climate, the more likely you’ll be playing on Bermuda grass. It’s especially prevalent in the hotter American South and Hawaii, as well as golfing destinations such as Portugal and Spain. Like bentgrass, it’s common for putting greens since it offers a fast recovery rate, although it’s also used for fairways and roughs.  

Bermuda grass provides a firm and fast surface. It provides a nice cushion, making it easier on a too-heavy put than bentgrass, which is why amateur golfers like it for putting – including senior players wanting to up their game. However, you need to be careful when attempting chip shots into the grain, as Bermuda grass loves to snag clubs.

A good rule of thumb: if Bermuda grass is shiny, you’re putting with the grain; if it looks dull, the grain is against you. According to Australian golfing legend, Greg Norman, with some Bermuda grass, “a putt against the grain must be hit twice as hard as a down-grain putt”. Remember that.

3. Fescue Grass

Fescue is that grass you’d rather not hit your ball into, as it’s the typical grass for links. It can often populate unmown native areas, although it also works well as short grass for fairways, greens, and tees. It is a slow-growing grass that needs relatively little water, which is why greens keepers love it.

It tends to fare best in cooler climates, which is why it’s most prevalent on courses in the Northeast, Northwest, and upper Midwest of the US, as well as Scandinavia and the British isles.

Fescue grass has been known to be the ‘purist’s grass,’ since it offers a firm, bouncy surface. However, if you find yourself in rough fescue grass, some good rules of thumb are:

  • take less club than you think,
  • open the club up to increase the bounce,
  • make your swing measured but aggressive,
  • plan for the ball to go 50% of its typical distance at most.

4. Poa Annua

Poa Annua grass is noted for its shallow roots, making it problematic in low-rainfall areas. It also stands up very well to heavy traffic on the course. However, it is not a beloved grass for many golfers, even being derided for being an ‘invasive weed’. It does have a tendency to invade bentgrass greens. Furthermore, because it’s a fast-growing grass, its seedheads – especially in the late afternoon – can make greens bumpy and give golfers a fast excuse for a bungled shot!

The world-famous Pebble Beach golf course in California is renowned for being 100% Poa Annua grass. It is also commonly found in courses in the Midwest and Northeastern US.

Poa Annua is an unpredictable grass, and you therefore need to hit the ball more solidly, and with a good angle of attack and loft. Interestingly, Poa Annua does have its fans among some seasoned golfers. They contend that the little seedheads or slight discoloration caused by this grass can be a bonus, as it allows them to see their line with greater ease.

5. Rye Grass

“If bentgrass and Bermuda are the turf world’s John and Paul, rye grass is more like Ringo. It’s not the biggest star, but take it away, and you might spoil the show.” (

Rye grass can be considered a reliable all-rounder, being perfect for tee boxes and fairways. Being so fine-textured and upright means it allows for striping and other pleasing aesthetic features. Rye grass does poorly with heat, doing best in cooler, milder climates. A golf course as legendary as Augusta has its fairways overseeded with rye grass, so it can be a special grass too!

Your play on rye grass will depend very much on how rough or thick that part of the course is. Your chosen golf club and hitting technique will depend heavily on that. In the opinion of one golfing consultancy, with rye grass, “hammering the nail can help with a better iron shot” in some instances.

6. Zoysia

Zoysia has become very popular with golf courses as it is an adaptable grass that needs little watering. Some have even commented that it’s the ideal golf turf for climate change. It is a member of the Poa family of grasses, which means it has deep roots and fine color.

It does well in a wide range of climates except for those golf courses in desert-like conditions or cold regions. However, Zoysia is susceptible to disease, which can complicate things and make golf course maintenance potentially very expensive.

It’s been said that a drawback of playing on Zoysia grass is that it can be somewhat ‘sticky’. This is due to its blades being so rigid and tight, the very thing that makes it popular for play on the fairway and around the green complex. To avoid sticky bounces on approach shots, a golfer should avoid playing bump and run-type shots on Zoysia grass. That’s because its thick blades of grass might stop a ball’s momentum more quickly than anticipated.

The game of golf is getting increasingly influenced by technology, but the fundamentals remain true – including the type of grass at play.

Of course, it doesn’t all come down to the grass used for a given tee, fairway, or putting green. As South African golfing legend Gary Player once observed: “The more I practice the luckier I get.” Perhaps that’s the best advice for any golfing enthusiast, regardless of the grass they’re playing on, right? It’s certainly a good excuse to continue playing a game so many of us love.

Author: Erin Wagner

After earning a Bachelor's degree in Communications, Erin built the custom social media analysis division for the world's largest PR measurement firm working directly with clients like Boeing, Johnson & Johnson, and GLOCK. From there, Erin landed in computer vision startups working on products like facial recognition for loss prevention and breath detection for medically-fragile newborns. As VP of Marketing for Limble CMMS, Erin and her team get to share with maintenance teams around the world the good news that there is an easier way to manage--and get credit for--their amazing work.