The USGA is hosting the U.S. Open Championship at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash., an 8-year-old course with fine fescue tees, fairways and, yes, even putting greens. Although you may hear that American-focused research on fine fescue is limited compared to other turfgrasses, there is exciting new research underway.
Scientists at the University of Minnesota, Rutgers University, and the University of Wisconsin are working on a research project to improve fine fescues. These universities received a $2.8 million grant from the Specialty Crop Research Initiative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The goal of the project is to improve fine fescue traits while overcoming the barriers that limit turf managers from utilizing the grass. Fine fescues include creeping red, hard, Chewings, and sheep fescue. Fine fescue cultivars are drought tolerant, use less fertilizer and develop a deep root system. They will turn brown during periods of drought, but bounce back quickly when it rains.
The scientists recently met with each other at Oregon State University. They are just wrapping up the third year of a five-year project and are making excellent progress. The scientists also met with local farmers that produce fine fescue seed in Oregon.
The USGA is supporting extra studies to test mixtures of fine fescue cultivars for wear tolerance and divot recovery. Several fine fescues survived weekly traffic applied with different devices that simulate traffic. Hard fescues and slender creeping red fescues were present in plots that performed best under traffic stress. Divot recovery has been slow for all fine fescue mixtures in the test. Fine fescues also are evaluated for heat tolerance and resistance to snow mold diseases. The look and feel of the U.S. Open Championship at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash. could become a major storyline in June. Fine fescues can provide a lower-maintenance grass for golf courses. However, before their widespread use on American golf courses, turfgrass researchers still have some work to do.