Grassland management

3. Grassland management

Introducing rough grassland to a golf course can be a simple way to provide strategy and definition, while increasing the amount and quality of grassland on the golf course provides more opportunities for wildlife. 

This resource section covers the benefits of rough grassland, the types of grassland found on golf courses and the principles of grassland management to ensure maximum benefit for wildlife and compatibility with golfing play.

Grassland types

  • Grassland communities will vary depending on the environmental conditions of the golf course (i.e. nutrients, moisture availability and pH) and some golf courses may exhibit a mix of grassland types across the site. The three main grassland types are acid (low pH), alkaline (high pH) and neutral. More on grass types

Do you need to cut?

  • Grassland maintenance regimes on golf courses are often inherited from one greenkeeper to the next with very little change, and it may be worthwhile for the golf club to re-evaluate the need to cut. More on the benefits of rough grassland
  • Deciding which areas to convert to rough grassland must take in to account the current grass species composition and connectivity between habitats. More on how to choose an appropriate area

Managing existing grassland

  • Grassland management should take place in early spring (up to the end of March) and early autumn (late August onwards), in order to avoid bird breeding season and to allow grasses and wildflowers to set seed. More on choosing the right time to manage grasslands
  • The best grasslands are composted of thin, fine-leaved grasses to aide easy ball retrieval, and to support a richer biodiversity. More on grass species composition
  • Cut, scarify and collect. Scarifying creates gaps for wildflowers to germinate, and collecting all clippings ensures that the soil does not become fertile which would allow unfavourable grasses to establish. More on management techniques

Grassland management trials

  • Trials can be useful to carry out, before selecting a larger area to convert to grassland. They will show how the grass responds to management and how long it will take before any benefits can be observed. More on how to set up a trial

Rough grassland management zones

  • Consider creating a graded rough with two distinct management zones: the ‘fringing rough’, bordering the cut rough, and ‘ecology rough’, which is further off line.
  • The fringing rough should include the first 6-12m of grassland (may vary) and should be managed once or twice a year to begin with.
  • The ecology rough provides undisturbed wildlife habitat and therefore should be managed less often. More on types of rough grassland