Do Fairways Need A Sand Cap?

from Asian Golf Business January 2008

Must grass for golf courses always be grown only on sand? Talk to almost most professionals who deal with turf matters and they will almost always agree that sand is the ideal surface upon which to grow grass. However, one expert begs to differ – he is Micah Woods of the Asian Turfgrass Center who happens to believe otherwise and sets out to prove his case with some sound reasoning.

Six months ago, I heard an interesting comment about the turfgrass research facility being developed by the Asian Turfgrass Center. We had started to plant 33 different grass types on native soil (formerly paddy fields) near Bangkok, intending to maintain this area as a fairway turfgrass trial. We had already established these same grasses in a sand rootzone. A visitor remarked that the particular trial of turf on native soil would be the one they would like to see the outcome of, because they were not sure that these grasses could grow in anything other than sand. I was surprised to hear this, because plants will almost always grow better in soil than in sand.

There seems to be a misapprehension about suitable soils for golf courses in Asia. It is common to use sand as a growing medium for fairways (Figure 1). But this is a substantial cost, and it may not be necessary, at least during the construction phase of a golf course. In fact, I believe that many golf courses would see better and more consistent playing conditions if the fairways were not sandcapped during construction, but were regularly topdressed with sand instead.

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