Native or naturalized areas around golf courses spark lively post-round discussions if a player was unfortunate enough to hit into one during their round. “They should be mowed!” or “I was better off hitting it 10 feet into the native area than 10 inches.” The playing partner will then typically respond with “Don’t hit it there!”

Finding the balance between aesthetics, playability and maintenance costs in native area management has proven elusive for many a superintendent. Certainly, limiting or eliminating irrigation and fertilizer from these areas is the most common first step to achieving balance. However, determining the timing and frequency of mowing is often the most challenging part of native grass management.

During a recent Course Consulting Service visit, the topic of native area management came up. The host superintendent took me to an area that was accidentally mowed a few weeks before the visit. While all of the native grasses on this course received a haircut early in May, this particular spot was accidentally mowed again in late May. The difference was dramatic. The area that was mowed twice was less dense but still had a nice wispy seedhead look. Since establishing native grasses at this course, they have worked hard to find the right timing for mowing in order to produce the appropriate look and playability for the most time during the year. This happy accident helped them get closer to finding the magic formula for their native area management.

West Region Agronomists:

Brian  Whitlark, senior consulting agronomist –

Cory Isom, agronomist –

Information on the USGA’s Course Consulting Service

Contact the Green Section Staff