How Golf Courses & Trees Can Work Together Successfully

Trees are an important feature on golf courses. Their architectural uses include but are not limited to: providing a form of safety from errant tee shots, adding challenge to golf holes, when areas are out of sight, and provide reference points to help find golf balls. Aesthetically they provide definition and contrast, screening of disruptive sights, and seasonal interest. More importantly, they are essential for maintaining environmental diversity and wild life habitats.

With so many positives that trees offer on golf courses, great care must be taken in making decisions as the specific tree species and their placement near playing surfaces. Golf Course Superintendents, Architects and Arborist's have to consider the future growth habits and development characteristics a tree and how it may impact conditions in the future.

If not taken into consideration, trees can begin to block vital sunlight and wind movement detrimental to putting and tee surfaces. Debris may also be a large issue!

This ultimately leads to the use of more pesticides and/or fertilizers along with more emissions to maintain these areas.

When selecting a tree for a golf course, the following characteristics should be considered:
• Rooting habit
• Foliage type
• Fruiting
• Crown shape
• Density of foliage and shade potential
• Susceptibility to insects and diseases
• Susceptibility to ice and storm damage
• Height
• Longevity
• Outstanding characteristics
• Environmental Stress Tolerances

Planting Trees Near Golf Greens

The most important characteristics to consider when planting trees around greens which will not interfere with turf growth include: Deep rooting, minimum shade, absence of litter, strong branching, and an open canopy. Although it may be impossible to find a tree with all these characteristics, it is important to keep these things in mind.

It is absolutely crucial not to plant trees located on the east or south sides of the putting green if in the northern hemisphere. Eventually, these trees would block morning and day time sun. At full maturity, it is best that the branching structure is 30-40 feet from the edge of a putting surface.

In addition, prevailing winds must be considered. Air circulation is crucial to the success of turfgrass on greens. When planting trees keep enough room between each tree so there is lots of room for them to develop and pass air through
Winter shade. Due to the low angles of sun in the winter, it is important to note that planting conifers anywhere on the east or south sides of the green can lead to shadows being cast and a delay of snow and ice melt in the spring which may also lead to winter injury.

The success of a tree and specific areas on a golf course isn't just luck. It takes careful planning to ensure both can thrive into the future!