02 Mar 2011
March 2, 2011

Trees on The Golf Course

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Trees on The Golf Course

Trees on the golf course offer beauty, habitat for wildlife, and a cool spot of shade on those warm summer days. Although trees offer numerous benefits, it is important to recognize that misplaced trees can cause serious turfgrass management challenges.

Grass needs a lot of light to grow – typically around 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. This is particularly true on the putting greens where the grass is cut very low. Too much shade from the surrounding trees results in thin turf that cannot stand excessive wear and tear from golfer traffic. In some cases, it is necessary to completely remove some of the trees near the green to allow adequate sunlight and air movement. In other instances, selective tree pruning will allow enough light to reach the putting surface.

Tree roots absorb tremendous quantities of water and nutrients from the soil. When these roots reach into the green, the tree competes with the grass for water and nutrients, and the grass usually loses the battle. For most trees, the root system is very extensive. A general rule of thumb is that tree roots extend outward from the trunk of the tree at a distance roughly equal to the height of the tree. To reduce this competition between the trees and the grass, golf course superintendents often severe tree roots at approximately the most outward branches of the tree.

Greens also need plenty of air moving across the putting surface to help keep the leaves dry, which in turn greatly reduces disease problems. Dense trees block the wind, so it is no coincidence that greens surrounded by trees are usually the weakest on the golf course. Selective pruning and paying particular attention to the predominant wind patterns can dramatically improve the health of greens.

The location of trees or the type of tree itself can impact how the game is played. For example, trees planted too close to the left side of the tee may cause golfers to use only the far right side of the teeing area. The result is a much smaller tee that is unable to withstand the concentrated traffic. Also, trees that naturally have low branching should not be located in high-play areas. They punish golfers indiscriminately and create a hazard for which there is no reward for a skillful recovery shot.