10/19/2012

In my 30-years playing Myrtle Beach area golf courses, I have  never thought much about the type of grasses used on putting surfaces. All I knew was I liked and preferred BentGrass greens. Bermuda greens were more difficult for me to get the speed right and I always seemed to see break where there was none.

Over the past few years a number of area golf courses have made the change from BentGrass and older Bermuda Grasses to the newer Bermuda Grass greens. In a survey by the Golf Course Supervisors Association (GCSA) published results showed 87-percent of South Carolina golf courses use Bermuda, while 13-percent favor BentGrass. It’s my opinion that the 13-percent are predominately in the Upstate region of the state.

The reasoning for a change in grass is pretty straightforward. Bentgrass is dominant where temperatures are moderate to cool. Bermuda is the preferred choice in tropical climates. The Myrtle Beach area summers are definitely tropical in nature. Maintenance and playability are of primary importance to every Myrtle Beach area golf course. However, the commitment to change has come slowly.

In addition to losing rounds during the changeover, the question that I ask, “Will it be good for the golfer?” Myrtle Beach is a destination that is dependant on visiting golfers. Many of our players are from the Northeast and Midwest where Bentgrass is prominent. Playability and a memorable experience are vital to our success as a golf destination. We simply cannot risk anything less than a positive golf vacation. The agronomists are putting those concerns to rest.

A variety of Hybrid Bermuda grasses, or “dwarf” varieties, have been developed that are significantly improving performance. Two major issues have been addressed. First is the need for Hybrids that fend off contamination with off-types of grasses that would disrupt the uniformity of the putting service. Secondly, with the need for putting speed that’s similar to BentGrass the new Hybrids now allow the grass to tolerate a lower cut. These new dwarf varieties are outperforming the older Tifdwarf and Tifgreen plantings and in most cases BentGrass, too.

Some of the new names you’ll see Champion, Miniverde, and Tifeagle Bermuda Grasses are finding a home on area courses. These newer dwarfs accumulate thatch at a rate that’s 5-times faster than the older Bermudas and when properly maintained provide a putting surface that’s comparable to BentGrass greens. These new plants do require regular cutting, verticutting and dusting. Though they will return to full playability very quickly.

For regular visitors to the Myrtle Beach area, you will be pleasantly surprised with the playability of these new dwarf grasses. Whether it replaces BentGrass, or an older Bermuda grass you’ll be delighted with how true the ball rolls. Trust me when I tell you I was a skeptic when a few of my favorites renovated with the new hybrids. They’ve won me over.