Approximately ten years ago Stowe Country Club created a plan to stop mowing selected rough areas to reduce operational costs associated with mowing. These areas were previously mowed at the rough height of 2.5 inches. The savings were created by less fuel from the reduced acreage and in the reduction of man hours it took to mow. Additionally, there was less wear on the mowing equipment. A second aspect of this plan was to add a new aesthetic to the golf holes.
This new aesthetic aspect for the golf course is where the plan fell short. While the idea was good, the execution lacked follow through. As time progressed, the high rough areas were overrun with field grasses and weeds which resembled an unkempt pasture. From a golfing aspect, finding a golf ball in the weeds and thick pasture grass was almost impossible. The other negative aspect is that the look of weedy high grass areas presented the impression of neglect. Playing a golf course that has clean visual lines is a pleasant and inspirational experience. The opposite feels chaotic and distracting.
Earlier this year, a plan was initiated to revitalize these high grass areas to add a positive aesthetic to the course in addition to making them more playable. The plan is centered to promote the growth and establishment of fescue grasses. Fescue is a thin bladed grass that predominates on golf courses throughout Scotland, England, Ireland, and Wales. In these regions, fescue is a definitive characteristic of a links golf course. The actual playing surfaces, greens, tees, and fairways, are fescue on these European courses. However, the true charm and beauty of a links course is the un-mown fescue that surrounds a golf hole. The wispy seed stalks of fescue that turn a golden brown starting in mid-summer create the true beauty of a links course. Of course, fescue is not just on links courses. Many golf courses, wherever the region, have fescue in the outer rough areas to provide that beautiful flowing golden look. The 2015 US Open will be played at Chambers Bay in Washington. This golf course is built on an abandoned quarry and was planted to fescue. Greens, tees, fairways, and rough are pure fescue stands. From it's inception, Stowe Mountain Club focused on maintaining expansive stands of fescue that frame many of the golf holes. The aesthetic created by the fescue during this time of year is beautiful. Besides the aesthetics, the other important aspect of fescue is the ease to find your golf ball and to successfully advance it. This is accomplished by planting fescue on low quality soil, never irrigating, and never fertilizing the grass. The thinner the better.
|Elimination of non-desirable grass surrounding thriving fescue|
Between the 6th green and 7th tee
The challenge at Stowe Country Club is that the fescue areas are overgrown with weeds and non-fescue grass and the soil has high water retention and nutrient holding capacity. Elimination of the weeds and field grasses is being executed with products that will eliminate all the undesirable plants but the fescue. Multiple applications are needed since many weeds and non-fescue grasses can be very persistent. Multiple mowing is another aspect of the revitalization of the fescue. Multiple mowing throughout the year will eliminate the ability for weeds to seed out, and will cause the depletion of the carbohydrate reserve of the plant that will eventually lead to the plants decline. The mowing will conversely help the fescue thrive and spread. Check out the recent USGA article on this topic. USGA ARTICLE
This process takes time. Expansive stands of fescue at Stowe Country Club will take three to five years. As these areas are denuded of undesirable plants, new fescue will be sown. Maturation of fescue after establishment is slow taking three to four years. We appreciate your patience during this conversion. The end product will be worth the time and effort. Once established, the fescue will provide a beautiful aesthetic to a round of golf and it may even lower your score. For more information on fescue, visit a prior blog titled "Fescue".