Bentgrass is the preferred turfgrass on fairways and greens in the northeast. The ability to tolerate low cutting heights, aggresive lateral growth habit, dense canopy, and stress tolerance make it a suitable playing surface for the game of golf. The predominant species of bentgrass is creeping bentgrass. Within this species there are hundreds of cultivars. The breeding of creeping bentgrass is a very competitive business due to the golf course industry. The other type of bentgrass is velvet bentgrass. This bentgrass had its hayday in the 1950's and 60's on golf courses. It is an old variety of bentgrass and existed before many creeping bentgrasses were bred for golf turf. Since that time creeping bentgrass has surpassed velvet bentgrass as the preferred golf course turf.
Graden cultivation
We manage both courses in a manner that promotes bentgrass. We do not simply grow "grass". Our mission is to promote bentgrass growth and overtime increases its population on greens and fairways. Stowe Mountain Club has A4 creeping bentgrass on the greens and L93 creeping bentgrass on the fairways. These two grasses were chosen by Billy Fuller from Bob Cupp Design, the golf course architect. Billy was the Agronomist for Bob Cupp during the construction of the course. The interesting story behind A4 is that Billy worked with Dr. Joe Duitch from Penn State to breed this specific cultivar. While the superintendent at Augusta National in the early 1980's, Billy showed Dr. Duitch a patch of bentgrass on the par 3 course that exhibited a very tight and smooth growth habit. From that patch the A4 bentgrass was bred to be what it is today. It is one of the premier bentgrasses for putting greens in the world. The "A" stands for Augusta. The L93 bentgrass in the fairways is also a newer cultivar. It is considered a workhorse in the golf industry. It is a very versatile turf that can also be used for tees and greens. The tees at the Mountain Course are not bentgrass but rather a blend of chewing fescue and dwarf Kentucky bluegrass.
Core aeration cultivation
Stowe Country Club has a much more diverse mix of turf species. The greens are a mixture creeping bentgrass, velvet bentgrass, and annual bluegrass. Many of you know annual bluegrasss by its scientific name, Poa annua. This mixture of grasses creates a very challenging scenario for reaching the goal of smoothness. You can identify velvet bentgrass by it's very fine leaf blade, dense growth habit (looks like moss) and it's soft puffy feeling under foot. It is also visible on the greens due to its round patchy growth. In between these velvet patches is Penncross creeping bentgrass. Unlike A4 and L93, Penncross is a very old cultivar. In fact, it is considered one of the first cultivars of creeping bentgrass. Pencross has been around for many decades and can still be purchased to this day. Pencross is known for its aggressive creeping or lateral growth habit. This can be viewed as a positive aspect due to its ability to creep laterally to fill in any damaged area or divot. However, on greens it is a negative attribute because it produces very long leaf blades that makes for slower and grainy greens.

In The History of Stowe Country Club author Lynn Altadonna, explained that the greens were sodded to velvet bentgrass when the 18 hole course was built in 1962/63. The sod came from a defunct golf course called Kearsarge Golf Club in New Hampshire. The Village Course architect, William Mitchell, was known throughout New England for using and promoting the use of velvet bentgrass. There is no doubt that he had a role in this procurement of sod. The problem with sodding greens, especially velvet, as opposed to seeding greens is the existing thatch layer. Thatch is the layer of old stem material that builds up below the turf surface. Bentgrasses as a whole are prolific thatch producers. While thatch is simply the by-product of producing quality playing surfaces, proper thatch management of is the difference between good and bad turf. The basis of proper thatch management is to mechanically remove the thatch through core aeration and vertical mowing. The USGA recommends the removal of 15-20% of thatch surface annually for quality playing surfaces. This chart explains how to get to those percentages Surface Impact. The strategy at Stowe Country Club is to complete two 1/2 inch core aerations at 1 x 2 inch spacing with an additional Graden verticut. All three methods of cultivation equate to an 18% surface impact. At Stowe Mountain Club a less aggressive management is effective due to the young age of the greens to where the frequency of aerification will impact 10% of the surface.

As stated earlier, velvet bentgrass has fallen out of favor in the golf course industry. The main reason for this is that it is the most prolific thatch producer out of all the cool season grasses. If aggressive aeration and vertical mowing is not done on a regular basis the velvet will become puffy, bumpy, and play poorly. Since velvet at Stowe Country Club was initially installed and was not aggressively cultivated over the years, it has aggressively produced a determinate layer of thatch. Moving forward, proper agronomic practices will be initiated such as aggressive aeration and verticutting to regain the quality of the putting surface. In addition to controlling thatch levels, the cultivation of the greens will assist in conditioning the Penncross to be much smoother and less grainy.

It is our goal at Stowe Golf to produce excellent playing conditions through the production of quality bentgrass. Thank you for your patience during these periodic maintenance procedures to restore the turf. We hope that players will appreciate the  high quality playing surfaces that will grow in based on sound management practices.