A few years ago I published an article comparing bentgrass to bermudagrass greens. I had just walked off a course in which the bermudagrass was young and rock hard. It was the complete opposite of bentgrass greens. Suffice it to saw, I was not happy. I vowed that bentgrass was far superior to bermudagrass. So, what makes bentgrass greens so great?
If you are like me, you are watching the 2019 President’s Cup at Royal Melbourne and are seeing the Americans struggle with their putting. The speed is a challenge; even for the guys that have been playing throughout the fall in Florida and southern California. You don’t get to practice on greens like those at the President’s Cup. Royal Melbourne has a unique strain of bentgrass known as Sutton’s Mix. Like any private county club with a budget, bentgrass greens and a competent superintendent, you can expect the putting to be fast. Faster than fast.
When I first joined the Hasentree Club in Wake Forest, North Carolina the greens were bentgrass. During tournaments, members would literally walk off greens and go home because they were so fast. On hole #7, a par 5 with a semi false front, there were golfers taking scores in the double digits regularly. One year, three people walked off hole #7 and quit during the club championship.
For the first five years of my “golf career” I had to learn how to putt on super fast bentgrass greens. Think of putting on a linoleum floor. As one of the announcers said during the Presidents Cup, putting from just off the green is like putting from the top of a car, onto the windshield and trying to stop it on the hood. I know that feeling all too well.
In the last several years, most private country clubs in the south have gone to Champion Bermudagrass as it is much easier to maintain during the hot summer months. As much as anyone loves to putt on the pure and fast bentgrass greens, they can be eaten up during the heat of the summer. The golf course superintendents are fighting the battle of keeping the greens watered and soft while also allowing members to play. There are many times you will hit a chip shot onto the green and a huge chunk of the green will go flying.
After several summers of losing greens, Hasentree went to Champion Bermudagrass. Hope Valley, Old Chatham, Governor’s Club and many other private clubs in the Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill area have also gone to Bermudagrass. There are still a handful of courses in the Triangle fighting the bentgrass battle. Two that come to mind are Wakefield Plantation and Treyburn. UNC Finley is a public course that still has bentgrass. That said, this is not the pure bentgrass you see in places like Cashiers/Highlands and near Boone. Courses like Elk River, Grandfather Mountain, Linville Country Club, Cullasaja, Wade Hampton, Wildcat Cliffs and Mountaintop all have pure bentgrass that is phenomenal.
You may have heard of this course called Augusta National. Yeah, they still have bentgrass too. But, they do not have member play during the heat of the summer and they let the bentgrass grow after The Masters. Interestingly, the architect that designer Augusta National, Alister Mackenzie, also designed Royal Melbourne. The challenge of his courses are not tight driving holes or the distance of the course. The challenge is the approach shots to very undulated greens.
You can be on the green at Augusta National or Royal Melbourne and have to lay up putt and hope to two putt. This is not common for the average amateur. Imagine being on the green and having to lay up with a putt. It’s like a toughie tournament but every single time you play.
If you get the opportunity to play in Cashiers/Highlands, Boone or in the mountains of Georgia, North Carolina or Virginia, go enjoy some of the most pure and fast bentgrass greens in the world. If you happen to catch one of these private country clubs near their club championship or member guest, you can expect to three putt half a dozen times, or more.