Did you know that about 30% of any modern golf course greens are actually covered in weeds? Even some of the world’s most famous and exclusive golf courses have a hard time keeping their fairways and tee boxes clear of unwanted flora.
Because weed growth is a challenge for so many different types of golf courses – public, private, and country club – we’re going to focus on how the average small-town public golf course differs from its high-end brethren when it comes to managing these pests. By now, you probably understand that there are weeds growing on your local golf course because you see them growing there all the time!
But what exactly are these plants, why do they grow there so often, and how do they do it? The answers to these questions will help you understand just why your local golf course has such problems keeping those pesky plants at bay. Here’s everything you need to know about weeds and ways how golf courses keep weeds out.
How Do Golf Courses Try to Keep Weeds Out?
The best way to prevent weeds from growing in the first place is to keep the course mowed as often as possible. This can be a challenge for small-town public courses, where staff may be limited, equipment may be inadequate, and budgets often can’t support frequent mowing.
Many courses also try to incorporate a combination of other cultural methods, such as cultivating and using herbicides, as part of a weed management program designed to prevent weeds from growing on the course. A combination of these methods can help to keep weeds from growing in areas where they aren’t wanted, like tee boxes and fairways.
What Are Golf Course Weeds?
All plants are weeds at one point or another in their life cycle. But when most people refer to golf course weeds, they’re usually talking about one of three types of plants: annual weeds like crabgrass, perennial weeds like dandelions, other types of broadleaf weeds, and turf grasses that are growing where they’re not supposed to.
Annual weeds are among the most common and challenging weeds found on golf courses. These aggressive annuals sprout, flower, produce seed and die all in one growing season. They’re often found in the fairways and tee boxes of small-town public courses, where they thrive in the long periods between mowing.
Perennial weeds are much more challenging to get rid of than annual weeds since they regrow from rhizomes, root fragments, or even from seed. However, their approach to growing and reproducing can vary widely. Some perennial weeds germinate and grow in the same manner as annuals, while others produce seeds that take years to germinate.
Why Are There So Many Weeds on Golf Courses?
Weeds are a standard part of the ecosystem that supports healthy, living lawns and greens. However, the continual presence of weeds on golf courses is often a sign that the course owners haven’t designed the groundskeeping and maintenance program to suit the environment the course inhabits.
In the long term, these oversights can lead to the decline of the turf and might even force course owners to replace their greens and tees with artificial turf. But short-term solutions, like frequent and excessive applications of herbicides, are often used to deal with the problem of invasives on golf courses.
Which Kinds of Weeds Grow on Golf Courses?
Since annual weeds are the most common on any golf course and are also the most problematic, we’ll focus on these pests. In addition to crabgrass, the other most commonly found annual weeds on golf course fairways and tee boxes are chickweed, henbit, and knotweed.
There are also a number of perennial weeds that frequently grow in golf course settings, though not all of them are serious problems. Some of the most common perennial weeds found in golf course settings include dandelion, plantain, and oxalis.
Weed Management Strategies for Golf Courses
The best way to manage weeds on golf courses is to prevent them from growing in the first place. To do this, golf course superintendents often use a combination of cultural, mechanical, and chemical controls.
- Cultural control methods include mowing, tilling, and cultivating.
- Mechanical methods include using specialized tools and/or equipment like vertical mowers to cut the plants as close to the ground as possible and rotary tillers to disrupt the weeds’ ability to grow.
These cultural and mechanical methods can help to prevent the growth of weeds and to reduce the spread of existing weeds on the golf course, but they can’t eliminate the weeds entirely. This is where herbicides tend to come into play. The most common herbicides applied to golf courses are 2, 4-D, dicamba, and glyphosate (Roundup). While these chemicals are often harmful to people and pets, they’re commonly used to control weeds on golf courses.
Roundup: The Most Common Weed Killer in Golf Courses
Roundup is a broad-spectrum herbicide that is commonly used by golf course superintendents to control weeds and other unwanted plants. Roundup doesn’t just kill the weeds that you see above ground, but it also works below ground to kill weeds that you can’t see. The active ingredient in Roundup is glyphosate, which is classified as a nonselective herbicide.
Nonselective herbicides kill all plants, whereas selective herbicides only kill specific plants. Roundup is a nonselective herbicide because it kills a wide variety of plants, including not only weeds but also green grass.
Roundup is a common weed killer in golf courses because it’s easy to use. It can also be applied to fairways and tee boxes before they’re mowed, which helps to prevent the chemical from being picked up by the mower and being spread throughout the course. Golf course superintendents often apply Roundup to golf courses in the spring, but they may also apply it later in the year if weeds begin to grow again.
Most golfers would much prefer to be battling an occasional slice or hook than having to deal with pesky weeds like crabgrass, dandelions, and plantain. Unfortunately, weeds are incredibly tough and resourceful and often thrive where they aren’t wanted. That’s why golf course superintendents have to work hard to keep weeds from growing on their greens and fairways. Luckily, there are many different ways to do this. It’s just a matter of picking the right solution for your specific situation.