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Is Tall Fescue Overdone?

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Jim Sweeney:
I played a golf course on Sunday that has wide playing corridors and dense tall fescue on virtually every hole. All of the 16 players in our game are single digit handicaps. It took five+ hours to play with numerous searches for balls lost in the fescue.

Another course I play has recently introduced fescue in many areas which one would think are out of play. I successfully convinced them to cut back the fesue in other areas. Yet ball searches and unsuccessful attempts too hack out of it still increase round times and decrease golfing pleasure.

Yet a third course in my area was designed with many fescue areas. After a recent change in superintendants, most of the fescue, except in out of play areas, was cut down. While the look suffered, players are much happier, and the course has decreased round times and increased the number of rounds.

It seems like every new course features lots of pretty fescue, but has it been overdone? Long searches and lost balls do not add to the fun of the game. Im many areas, such as the Ohio Valley where I live, does using tall fescue make sense from a naturalistic, use of indigenous plants point of view?

Andrew Summerell:
We have had the same problem in Australia with a few new courses. In the end, I think heavy or tall rough is over done on many new courses, and some older one. For standard play, the rough needs to be kept at a playable level. When Iíve been in America, it has surprised me how many courses have rough growing right up to the fringe of the green. I know this is popular for tournament golf, especially the US Open & PGA, but for every day golf itís just ludicrous.

Chris Tritabaugh:
Just to clarify; tall fescue is a species of turf.  What I believe you are talking about are fine fescues not being mowed.  There are three important factors involved in keeping unmowed fine fescues playable.  Lack of fertilizer, lack of water, and species selection.  Too much fertilizer or water and you end up with the fescue laying over the top of itself and creating an unplayable mess.  Unmowed fine fescue areas should also have high percentages of sheep, and hard fecue and stay away from chewings and creeping red fescue.  The later two tend to become too dense.  If properly maintained unmowed fine fescue looks great, is playable and is not difficult to find your ball.

Hope this helps.

It seems to have become a fad, lately, particularly around bunkers.

"Hey, my fescue is longer than your fescue."

"So??? My fescue is thicker."

"Yeah??? Well my fescue catches more balls.

"So what. It takes more whacks to get out of mine."

"Big deal. I'm into quality, not quantity."

"Well, then fesk your fescue."


Jon Wiggett:
One of the problems that many courses (new) have is this need to have an instant finished product. If seeded in low enough amounts (5g/m2) no watering and no fertiliser and let to grow in over 4 to 5 years it will provide an attractive low maintenance sward for the rough. As Chris says selecting the right sorts is crucial.


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