In recent years, much of the focus on the golf course at Augusta National has been on the lengthening of several holes, the addition of trees and the new second cut. But the most significant change to the course might have occurred in 1981 when the putting surfaces were changed from warm season bermudagrass to cool season creeping bentgrass.
It was possible to make the switch at the time thanks to advances in the breeding of creeping bentgrass, which produced varieties more tolerant of heat stress. Until then, creeping bentgrass had been regarded as the better putting surface, but it was not tolerant of the warm temperatures in the south.
In the years since the conversion, however, new varieties of bermudagrass have been developed that can produce putting surfaces close to the quality provided by creeping bentgrass. The availability of these high-quality varieties prompted a question, “If the new bermudagrasses of today been available in 1981, would the change still have been made?”
According to a survey of GCSAA golf course superintendents, 61 percent believe that even if today’s varieties of bermudagrass had been available back in 1981, Augusta National still would have made the conversion.
The scientific advances in turfgrass over the years have been considerable. In fact, 82 percent of the superintendents said their courses have taken advantage of new varieties since 1981. That trend is expected to continue in the future, with superintendents saying that the greatest change (48 percent) will be on putting greens.