Paspalum turf: even old school Tom Doak is using golf's hot new grass at Bahia de los Suenos in Mexico
I hadn’t heard about paspalum turf, a newer, bermuda substitute that is heat tolerant and easily watered until less than two years ago.
Now, it seems like I can’t go on one dang golf trip in a warmer climate without playing on it - or hearing that a golf course will soon be switching to it.
Many warm-weather golf courses, especially those near salt water, are eating paspalum up at a rapid pace. They like it because it can handle lower quality of water, like desalinized, brackish or even sea water that blows onto the golf course. Aesthetically, it also has a bold, green color, making it prettier to the eyes from your hotel room than bermuda grass.
On a conference call with Tom Doak last week, he was talking about his Bahia de los Suenos (Bay of Dreams) project scheduled to open later this year near La Paz, Mexico. For Doak, it must be a bit of a culture shock going to Mexico and to use paspalum on his course (which is the focal point of a real estate and resort community, no less). As we all know, Doak’s bread-and-butter is traditional golf courses, especially in more northern climes and often using links-type fescue when possible. I certainly don’t think of Doak and sticky, warm-weather grass in the same thought all too often.
While resorts seem to all be raving about paspalum for its benefit to the bottom line, Doak seemed a bit reserved about it.
“It’s not the miracle grass everyone says it is,” he said, going on to say that in order to initially grow paspalum in, fresh, higher quality water is still needed. “It’s not necessarily the best playing surface for the game and I expect our greens (at Bahia de los Suenos) won’t be very fast. But considering it seems like every site I’ve been to lately has said the water quality wasn’t great, from that perspective paspalum is the wave of the future in warm weather areas.”
For me, a native of the Midwest, where bent grass is used on most courses, I’d have to say the jury is still out on how paspalum plays. The best paspalum playing surface I’ve seen thus far is Kiahuna Golf Club out in Kauai. There, they were able to make the fairways and greens very firm. Even though it’s not the best golf course on Kauai, the playing surface was probably my favorite of the bunch I saw. Right now, the Princeville Makai course is currently under renovations and will soon reopen with paspalum turf as well.
A few weeks ago in La Paz, Paraiso Del Mar’s paspalum turf was very soft and thatchy. You could really get under the balls in the fairway here, which must delight higher handicaps. At times it was appeared propped up practically on a tee. Over time, it’s expected to settle and firm a bit more.
It appears paspalum is even spreading to the golf capital of the world, Myrtle Beach. In Shallotte, River’s Edge closed down last month to reseed their bent grass greens with Seadwarf Paspalum. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more bermuda greens that are located right on the intracoastal Waterway, like Heritage Club, Oyster Bay or Pawleys Plantation, go to paspalum the next time they decide to close their course down for the summer to reseed.
But for now, it seems the pros definitely outweigh the cons in the modern world of water and money conservation. If your home course uses bermuda grass, don’t be surprised if it’s reseeded with paspalum in the near future.
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