U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version


Document Type



Agricultural Research Magazine 60(5): May-June 2012 pp. 23; ISSN 0002-161X


Golfers and golf course superintendents expect a lot from their putting greens. They want fine, lush, carpetlike surfaces that a ball will roll smoothly across. They also want a grass that tolerates frequent low mowing, has uniform color and texture, tolerates pests and cold temperatures, and offers a dense canopy that shades out weeds to minimize the need for herbicides.

Southern putting greens are made up of single cultivars of bermudagrass, but golf course superintendents have complained for years about the appearance of nonuniform plants, or “off-types,” that can throw off the green’s appearance and “playability.” The bermudagrass cultivar Tifgreen, released in 1956, launched the era of high-quality, vegetatively propagated turfgrasses, but has also led to problems with the appearance of off-types on putting greens. Off-types can be caused by bermudagrass weeds or mutation of the cultivar. Mowing as well as birds and other natural phenomena increase the risk of weeds appearing on putting greens. Herbicides, ultraviolet light in sunlight, and errors during normal DNA replication can also induce mutations in the grass itself. The resulting inconsistencies have cost golf courses and sod farms millions of dollars over the years, forcing them to kill and reestablish entire greens.