Surf and Turf Golf Know Your Grass

When you travel to play golf in Southwest Florida SWFL, knowing in advance the types of grass and bunker sand you'll be experiencing and which wedges to bring to a course, will make a big difference in your golf game. That feeling of getting ready to play a new golf course in a gorgeous new exciting locale with beautifully manicured holes that will challenge all of the talent you can muster, priceless! There's nothing like it in the world. Until you hit a wayward shot into a greenside bunker and see its oddly reflective crystalline sand for the first time. You can't touch it to see if it is course or smooth, or soft like the granules in the kids' sand box at home. And this grass! When you hit off the fairway, it seems to reach out and grab your club head. And the rough? It feels like you're hitting through a jungle of green steel wool. Your trusty sand and lob wedges don't offer much help. What the heck is this stuff anyway? Okay, admit it. You didn't take the time to call before you left for the golf course to ask the pro shop what type of grasses and sand you could expect to encounter? The truth is we all make the same mistake. Here are some basics that can help. Sand. The sand used to fill bunker areas can vary from course to course. Some locations use very soft, fine sand. Other bunkers have tight, firm sand. Some courses may even have less sand in their bunkers than others. All of these conditions will require different sand play techniques. No two bunkers are the same, and neither is the sand that they are made from. When your ball lands in a bunker, you need to know the type of sand the bunker is made of and the lie you must deal with. The shape of the sand is important. Rounded sands tend to blow with the wind and away from steep slopes. They require a continual need for replacement and tend to bury balls. The size of the sand particle should also be considered. Good bunker sands have a very low percentage of fine particles and the proper ratio of large particles to keep them from crusting. Particle size and shape combine to determine the feel, or playability of the sand. Sand grains that have a more rounded shape are considered "soft" and require a substantial amount of skill to play from. Since rounded sand grains shift more under the weight of the golfer, golf balls can bury and disappear on impact. Regulations do not allow you to test the sand's texture before playing a bunker shot. However, try to be conscious if the sand appears to be wet and hard, or soft and light. Bunker sand that is on the hard side will require that you slow down your swing speed a bit. Do not take the club back as far as you normally would and the ball will pop out faster because there is no cushion of soft sand between the club head and your ball. Soft sand will require more speed from your swing. Because the sand is light and fluffy, your club head will slow down as it follows through. Bunkers. The do's and don'ts of playing from bunkers are addressed in Rule 13, Ball Played as it lies. Definition: A "bunker" is a hazard that is a hole or depression that has been filled-in with sand or a similar material. One might hear reference to a "grass bunker," a hollowed-out area or depression in which there is simply more deep grass. However, a "grass bunker" is not technically a bunker. It is not a hazard under the rules, but is akin to rough. Grass-covered ground bordering or within a bunker, including a stacked turf face (whether grass-covered or earthen), is not part of the bunker. A wall or lip of the bunker not covered with grass is part of the bunker. Waste bunkers are natural sandy areas, usually very large and often found on links courses; they are not considered hazards according to the rules of golf, and so, unlike in fairway or greenside bunkers, golfers are permitted to ground a club lightly or remove loose impediments from the area around the ball. But check local rules just to be sure. Although every bunker is a different size with different sand types, you will typically encounter two different extremes: 1. High Lip Bunker: These bunkers are small and circular, but run deep. They tend to have a big lip between the ball and a green. The key is to swing the club back very steeply and then follow through. 2. Wide Flat Bunker: Other bunkers may be shallow but run extremely wide and expansive. You will not need to pop the ball up as high, but loft it low so it can travel a longer distance. Basically, there two types of sand shots: The explosion shot out of a green-side bunker and the clip shot out of a fairway bunker. Hitting an explosion shot, the goal is to use the power of the sand created by the blow of the club to lift the ball out of the bunker. Take your stance by implanting your feet into the sand. Your feet should be the same width as when swinging a driver. Normally with sand wedges, your stance would be aimed about 30 degrees to the left of your target. GolfSWFL ProTouch With the new ProTouch Wedge that many golfers are now using as a sand "rescue" club to help in all types of sand and grass, you take your normal golf stance parallel to the target. The ProTouch Wedge's innovative Sole Channel Technology brings a new look to the wedge and more confidence for the short game and sand bunker play in golf no matter where you are in the world including Southwest Florida. The wedge design features four deep grooves or channels running perpendicular to the leading edge through the back of the bounce. The channels act like rails to guide the club head, keeping it square throughout the swing. There is less shifting or movement in the sand or deep rough, providing more forgiveness. The USGA has approved this new ProTouch Wedge design. The Sole Channel technology helps guide the club head down the swing path, through the ball, toward the target for a more effective rough or greenside bunker shot. Again, regardless of the lie, the Sole Channels are designed to encourage a normal square stance and square face at address and impact. This allows you to hit a regular pitch shot, just like you would from a distance of 60 to 80 yards, without having to open your stance, open your club face, or hack down on a ball in the rough. The ProTouch Wedge's Sole Channel sections have zero bounce. The sole moves with the turf (even deep rough) and the channels move through the sand instead of colliding with it. Yet there is still enough bounce to successfully push the sand to allow the head to slide under the ball. Even in conditions when sand in a bunker may be wet or very shallow, the channels permit the club head to effectively move through the sand with the right amount of bounce. The ProTouch Wedge is available in 56 and 60 degree lofts and is 5% heavier than conventional wedges. The added weight helps create momentum toward the ball and reduces deceleration. This provides better feel for shots that don't require a full swing. In sand set up play about 6″ back in your stance. As you take the club away, use your wrists more than in a normal golf shot. As you descend on the golf ball, aim to make contact with the sand 1″ behind the golf ball. Swing the golf club just as you would if you were hitting a normal shot and follow through. The goal of the shot is to hit behind the ball and essentially chunking it, so you will have to swing harder. Generally you have to swing 1.5 to 2 times as hard as you would if you were hitting the ball off the fairway. After a rain, sand clumps together and becomes harder so strike the ball somewhat like you would a fairway shot. The technique is the same except you don't swing quite as hard or hit as far behind the ball. Hitting out of a fairway bunker is in a sense the opposite procedure of hitting out of a green-side bunker. Where the goal of green-side sand shots is to hit behind the ball, the goal of a fairway bunker shot is to hit in front of the ball. Start by taking a firm stance in the sand by burrowing your feet in the sand. Take aim and setup the same way you would if you were hitting on the fairway except for the position of the golf ball. Place the ball one to two inches back from your normal position. This will help you clip the ball before the sand. Take your normal swing and as you descend, aim at hitting down on the top of the golf ball. 99% of the time if you aim at hitting down on the top of the ball, the club will clip the backside of the ball. This is exactly what you want. Make sure to follow through as in normal golf shot. The consistency of the sand, (either wet or dry) will affect the outcome of the shot. Just remember, the dryer the sand, the more a minor miss-hit will be magnified. However, the goal in both cases is still the same: Hit the ball before the sand. Make sure you have enough loft on the club to get it over the lip of the bunker. The worst thing is to hit a good shot only to watch it hit the lip of the bunker and roll back in the sand. Grass. The type of grass you play affects your game. Although every locale you visit is different, there are grasses that can be used on almost on any course. There are also grasses that can be used only in specific areas of the United States, like the South. In addition, there are specialized varieties of grass developed specifically for putting greens. Bentgrass is a hardy, resilient type of grass brought to America from Europe. This perennial is used on courses in the North, Northeast, and Midwest because it withstands cool temperatures. Creeping Bentgrass is ideal for greens. Colonial Bentgrass is better suited for fairways than greens because it's not well adapted to lower mowing heights. Bentgrass has very thin blades, which grow densely, which is great for adding spin to the ball. It can be mowed very closely, resulting in a felt-like smoothness to the putting surface. Hot, humid climates take a toll on Bentgrass greens, so putting quality declines as temperatures rise. Bentgrass in the South is limited to putting greens and even then requires a certain climate, extensive management and high input costs. However, New England States and the Pacific Northwest have ideal climatic conditions for Bentgrass. In Europe and parts of Asia, the grass is native and commonly found in most turf. Bermuda grass is a textured, fast repairing grass. Native to Southern Europe, it's used on courses in the South because it withstands heat. It adapts well to low mowing heights and is wearable. Bermuda grass is also used for tees. In the cooler part of the season, Bermuda grass is over-seeded with perennial ryegrass, known for its rapid reestablishment, until the Bermuda grass recovers from the winter. Hybrid Bermuda grass is used for putting greens, in warm, humid regions. It tolerates heat well under low mowing heights. Other types of golf course grass are Kentucky bluegrass, Zoysia, a warm season grass, and Bahia grass, a low maintenance grass used in roughs. St. Augustine grass, native to the West Indies, can't be used as far North as Bermuda grass. Poa Annua, a bluegrass that thrives in cool and damp conditions such as northern California, does well in hot and humid conditions but not in cold and freezing temperatures. Pebble Beach, for example, has Poa Anna greens. But in the South, Poa Annua is considered a major weed on golf course putting greens and fairways. In northern and cooler climates, Poa Annua greens are considered the norm and can provide good putting surfaces. It is often mixed with Bentgrass and some rye grasses. There are many different sub-species of Poa Annua with as many as twenty different types. At Oakmont and Torrey Pines, Poa Annua mixed with Bentgrass can provide a championship caliber putting surface. You can put more spin on shots hit from Zoysia grass than Bermuda grass because the ball sits up better. Some turf grasses are developed specifically for greens to make them fast, especially if the greens are well kept. The key with any grass is determining the grain — the direction the blades are growing thanks to factors like, the direction of the setting sun, prevailing winds, and water drainage on the greens. You can find the grain's direction by locating the brown, sunburned side of the hole showing exposed roots. That's generally the direction the grass is growing. The grain can affect your putting. Putts traveling down-grain will go at a much faster pace than putts hit into the grain, and breaking putts will either be magnified or reduced by the grain. Combinations of grass. Fescue does not tolerate heavy traffic well and cannot stand up to American motorized golf cart use. But the many varieties of fine fescue are available, and its ability to be used in blends with Bentgrass or ryegrass, make it suitable for fairways with well-drained, fertile soil and moderate annual temperature variations. The Pacific coast of California uses creeping, colonial Bentgrass and perennial ryegrass. The cooler interior of the U.S. uses creeping Bentgrass, Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass. The upper Atlantic coastal area uses creeping bent grass, perennial ryegrass, Midiron Bermuda, and Zoysia grass. Kentucky bluegrass is grown on tees that are mowed higher and don't require the amount of maintenance as the Bentgrass. Kentucky blue grass still delivers the fine texture, color and density expected on the finest courses that are played. International grass. The legendary golf courses of England and Scotland sport fairways of fine fescue usually blended with browntop Bentgrass. The coastal climates of St. Andrews and other premier European courses are mild and moist, but not oversaturated, all the year-round, providing an ideal environment for fine fescues. Bermuda grass is a major turf species for golf courses in Australia, Africa, India and South America. It is found in over 100 countries throughout the tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Fairways that appear colorless and dead are often planted with a species of Zoysia grass that becomes dormant during the winter when it is drier and the temperature comes down. Zoysia grass grows more slowly than most other varieties, but it creates a thick mat and can withstand a lot of foot traffic. And Zoysia grass needs less fertilizer to ward off pests and only occasional cutting, making it popular with greens keepers. Zoysia grasses are warm season, drought-tolerant grasses native to China, Japan and other parts of Southeast Asia. In recent years it has shown some promise as a golf course turf grass, especially fairways and tee boxes. Under drought conditions, it will turn straw colored but will respond to subsequent irrigation or rainfall. Zoysia has a deep root system allowing it to effectively extract water deeper in the soil with optimum water requirements similar to those of Bermuda grass. Fescue, a low input cool season grass, primarily found in the rough, is commonly found on golf courses that are in coastal regions of Great Britain. It is a very sturdy grass that turns golden and can grow three feet high. Fescue is sometimes used as a fairway grass especially in native coastal regions. Seashore Paspalum, the newest golf and sports turf grass, has many favorable attributes including hardiness for some harsh conditions. It can be used in conditions that are not an ideal environment for other grasses such as Bermuda. When lack of fresh water is an issue, Paspalum can tolerate water that is effluent and brackish. This makes it ideal for harsh environment regions including areas affected by salt water spray, tropical storms, hurricanes and various other challenging conditions. Thailand's Siam Country Club uses seashore Paspalum fairways and hybrid Bermuda grass greens. You increase your odds of success on the course by finding out what type of grasses and sand you'll be playing before starting out for the golf course. Make phone calls or send e-mails in advance — and take your new ProTouch rescue wedge with you. With a little bit of local knowledge, you'll enjoy the game like never before when you travel in this great big beautiful world of golf. Ask your local club PGA Pro to demonstrate the ProTouch wedge for you or visit: