Unusual Turf Problems

Winter is the normal time for golf club members to undertake additional tree planting on the golf course. Unfortunately, many NZ golf courses are already over planted and trees often create significant on-going maintenance and playing issues.

Left: Shade issues delay opening of the course during winter when frosts occur.
Right: Shading of a golf green, encourages disease and compromises turf health.

Before planting please consider the following:

  1. Does your Club have an overall tree planting concept plan for your golf course which will provide long term benefits from a future planting programme or is it an adhoc process?
  2. Does the proposed planting form a genuine purpose (strategic, safety, aesthetics,) or is it (as is so often the case) just filling up a bare space? Bare space is actually a good thing on golf courses.
    Over planting in the name of beauty often complicates and slows down play and can significantly increase course maintenance costs.
  3. Does the proposed plant location have a strategic purpose? – that is will it support the given way(s) in which the hole is designed to be played?

    Avoid the following:

    • Excessive (any planting) in the controlled rough unless it forms a strategic role.
    • Unfairly target high handicap golfers e.g. excessively narrowing fairways particularly within 120m (approx.) of tees.
    • Does it compromise the existing golfing strategy for a hole
  4. Will the new tree(s) location compromise the health and management of the turf, particularly intensively managed greens and tees?
    Plantings on the eastern and northern sides of turf areas should be avoided as they will have a major impact on shading as the trees get taller over time.
  5. Select appropriate tree species…
    • Golf courses are not arboretums/botanical gardens – it’s not a case of planting one of every type of tree – this simply results in a chaotic landscape. Select 2 – 3 suitably adapted tree types and repeat these throughout the course. For improved interest, specimen trees can be used as features in key areas (e.g. near a tee etc.).
    • How will the chosen tree type affect golf – some plants such as Golden macrocarpas, golden totaras (particularly if located in close proximity to the fairways) are known ‘ball gobblers’ seriously slowing play. Others such as gums, cryptomerias, etc. are incredibly messy, dropping a lot of litter throughout the year.
    • How big will the tree grow – it’s a shame to see large specimen trees (e.g. Redwoods etc.) have to be removed because no thought was given to their eventual size when they were first planted.
    • Does the chosen tree like the growing environment (wind, frost, salt air, drainage, pH etc)
  6. When planting trees:
    • It’s not an orchard – straight line or hedgerow type plantings are not natural.
    • There’s nothing wrong with a single specimen
    • If planting clusters of trees, do so in odd numbers
    • Consider maintenance
      • Where are drains/irrigation located?
      • Avoid planting patterns that require lots of handwork or convoluted, time consuming mowing patterns to look after.

Trees take a long time to mature, are expensive to remove and their adverse impact on turf quality/play can be significant. Take the time to locate new plantings correctly and avoid problems for future club management.

For any turf related queries, talk to our team at NZ Sports Turf Institute.

Poorly located tree compromising play and intended hazard (bunker hidden behind tree).