Sustainability & Accent Fescue at Cutten Fields

Golf is in the midst of some challenging times. These challenges will continue to inspire changes in golf course management and design. The days of golf courses with overindulgent bunkers and wall-to-wall irrigation are beginning to fade as the golf industry is discovering ways to increase economic, environmental and social sustainability.

Characteristics of thin and wispy fescue

What is sustainability?

A definition was developed by The Environmental Institute of Golf for the golf industry. "The U.S. golf industry recognizes sustainability as the integration of environmental stewardship, social responsibility and economic viability as a critical and never-ending goal. The golf industry embraces sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

One of the ways in which Cutten Fields has identified as a move towards more sustainable golf course management is to incorporate accent Fescue. "Naturalized areas" is the term most commonly associated with long grass, however truly naturalized areas are unmaintained and do not necessarily contain Fescue. Accent Fescue will be maintained on an infrequent basis to ensure that playability remains a factor in the golf course landscape. The end goal is to provide a turf that is thin and wispy, not to impede pace of play while reducing the inputs that typical rough requires. Fescue is a turf type similar to Creeping Bentgrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, and Annual Bluegrass. Fescue can be maintained on putting surfaces, fairways, and rough.

Growth characteristics that make Fescue a good turf for use in low maintenance areas

  • Extremely drought resistant

  • Excellent shade and heat tolerance

  • Adapted to well draining soil

  • Requires no fertilizer

Once Fescue has been established, proper management techniques will be key to the success at Cutten Fields. Playability and pace-of-play are the main priority and management will be set accordingly based on environmental conditions. During periods of drought and high heat, Fescue will preform exceptionally well. Alternatively during seasons with an abundance of precipitation or untimely rain events, the Fescue can grow too thick. Adjustments to management strategies will be made accordingly. In order to achieve the desired turf a smaller amount of maintenance is required compared to traditional management. Accent Fescue areas will no longer receive any fertilizer or irrigation. Mowing and scarifying will be reduced to 2 times per season late spring and fall. A third mowing will occur in areas that have been deemed too thick.

Scarifying Accent Fescue post spring mowing

There have been roughly 13 Acres identified as potential Accent Fescue areas. Over the course of the next two golf seasons the identified areas will be maintained as reduced input rough. Many of these areas are NOT true Fescue, so they will not take on the thin and wispy characteristics common with well maintained Fescue. As we transition these areas from reduced input rough to Accent Fescue, the course and grounds staff will be evaluating and altering grassing lines based on current grass types, playability challenges, and altering irrigation coverage.

Environmental and financial benefits of Fescue

  • No water

  • No fertilizers

  • Adds color contrast to landscape

  • Creates additional habitat for wildlife

  • Reduces mowing inputs

In the fall of 2017 many of these areas will be re-grassed and Fescue will be established by seed. During the time of establishment regular play will continue, while cart traffic may be directed away from seeded areas. The benefits of incorporating more Accent Fescue to the landscape at Cutten Fields are numerous. Additional alterations are constantly being evaluated and discussed in order to increase sustainability for future generations of members at Cutten Fields.

#CuttenFields #Fescue #GolfCourse #Management