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Removing Trees and Adding Native Grass


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There's a trend I see more and more these days. Courses seem to be removing trees and adding long fescue grass to some of our classic old courses. I'm not a fan of this. The course I play here in Charlotte was a Donald Ross re-design of an AJ Tillinghouse course. It's been re-modeled several times and I feel sure Mr. Ross wouldn't recognize it. We've had several "architects of record" and the current one apparently hates trees. Our superintendent is fabulous and keeps the place in tip top condition so it's still fun to play, but I miss the trees and really don't like the thigh high native areas. Most of the old timers like  me agree. The younger members we have are mostly recreational   golfers. Give them good greens and a cooler full of beer and they're happy. I know nothing is going to change, but. thanks for letting me vent. What are your thoughts?

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Drive for Show; Putt for Dough

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I prefer the trees myself.  Breaks up the fairways, gives you some shade, makes you consider your second shot more. Do I go over the trees, draw it around, hit through an opening. What's better than a dog leg with trees? Forces you to  hit a specific distance.

If you had a top course designer create the course, why would anyone mess with it that much. I know everyone wants to add their touch but there should be limits. 

We had a course superintendent that added native areas to our course to cut down on mowing time and fuel expenses. The membership got that changed back after two years. We now have a new superintendent! 

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I agree, trees force you to shot make while fescue mostly just swallows up balls and shows who can gauge really hard. I will say, overgrown trees that obstruct tee shots might be my biggest pet peeve.

I actually think one of the commentators of the BMW at Olympia made a comment along these lines as well, and was saying because Olympia still has a lot of trees we were getting to see a lot more creativity from the players this week as opposed to a lot of others.

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15 hours ago, Hoganman1 said:

There's a trend I see more and more these days. Courses seem to be removing trees and adding long fescue grass to some of our classic old courses. I'm not a fan of this. The course I play here in Charlotte was a Donald Ross re-design of an AJ Tillinghouse course. It's been re-modeled several times and I feel sure Mr. Ross wouldn't recognize it. We've had several "architects of record" and the current one apparently hates trees. Our superintendent is fabulous and keeps the place in tip top condition so it's still fun to play, but I miss the trees and really don't like the thigh high native areas. Most of the old timers like  me agree. The younger members we have are mostly recreational   golfers. Give them good greens and a cooler full of beer and they're happy. I know nothing is going to change, but. thanks for letting me vent. What are your thoughts?

I'm pretty sure I know what course, and what designer you are talking about. He did a course here, and they went through a couple superintendents in the process. I believe he did one in Greensboro, and that super didn't survive the redesign. Our ex super was big on natural areas. He had some between tees and fairways. I told the GM that that slows play because walkers have to stay on cartpaths, and if someone duffs a tee shot, they either have a lost ball, or spend time searching. He also grew tall grass around the edges of the course, so folks had nice yards bordered by jungle. I liked Pinehurst before Coore and Crenshaw planted all the weeds. I worked for the super that was there for the first two US Opens, and he was let go because he didn't like the redesign. As tough as those greens are, they really don't even need rough for the resort guests, let alone sandy areas full of junk.

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I think its common to believe that those trees were always part of a designer's original intent, and that's not always accurate.  Look at old photos for many of the older courses, and you'll see very few trees, but they've grown in the intervening decades.  So in many cases, tree removal is really a return to the original design, rather than altering it.  And tree removal is often extremely positive for the health of the turf, improving sunlight and ventilation.

Pinehurst and Donald Ross have been mentioned a few times here, and I think its a good example.  You can find lots of photos of #2 over the years, and those pine trees were sure a lot smaller in 1910 than they are now.  You also won't see a lot of Bermuda rough in 1910, its fairway and then sandy scrub, pretty similar to the current look.  On the other hand, the C-C renovation really didn't remove a lot of the trees, they've really never been in the line of play for most holes.

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I like playing courses with tree lined fairways - it helps me pick a line and is appropriately penalizing when I don't execute while still allowing me to locate my golf ball most of the time.

That said, trees can be detrimental to a course as they require resources to sustain themselves just like the turf we play on. They can cause bare spots or damage portions of the course by blocking sunlight and - in the case of any fruit or nut bearing trees - by dropping debris on the course. Another consideration about tree removal is the root structure of various trees which can wreak havoc on an irrigation network or make it difficult to route new irrigation where needed.

One thing I've seen in favor of native grass areas is that they provide a natural habitat for various insects and animals including (in some cases) pollinators.

I'm no expert on any of this or have any experience as a course superintendent, but these are things that I can readily identify as a complete outsider with only a little knowledge on the subject of course design and maintenance. Just my 2 cents.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, TR1PTIK said:

I like playing courses with tree lined fairways - it helps me pick a line and is appropriately penalizing when I don't execute while still allowing me to locate my golf ball most of the time.

That said, trees can be detrimental to a course as they require resources to sustain themselves just like the turf we play on. They can cause bare spots or damage portions of the course by blocking sunlight and - in the case of any fruit or nut bearing trees - by dropping debris on the course. Another consideration about tree removal is the root structure of various trees which can wreak havoc on an irrigation network or make it difficult to route new irrigation where needed.

One thing I've seen in favor of native grass areas is that they provide a natural habitat for various insects and animals including (in some cases) pollinators.

I'm no expert on any of this or have any experience as a course superintendent, but these are things that I can readily identify as a complete outsider with only a little knowledge on the subject of course design and maintenance. Just my 2 cents.

Your opinion matters whether you are an architect or not. You bring up some good points. I just prefer having tree lined fairways on parkland courses. Olympia Fields is a good example. The two best players in the field were only four under par while -30 won the week before. Did the trees make that big of a difference? Probably not, but they were a factor for sure.

As far as the "native grass areas" are concerned, they cause slow play at our course. There is a native area about 180 to 200 yards out on the right side of our first fairway. Guess where a large percentage of our members hit their first drive. A lost ball on the first hole will surely create a back-up resulting in a 4+ hour round.  

Edited by Hoganman1

Drive for Show; Putt for Dough

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