Zoysia putting greens and expected speed

The 2013 NTEP National Warm-Season Greens Test measured ball roll on zoysia and bermudagrass greens. On average the ball rolled 20% farther on bermuda.

I get to see a lot of bermudagrass and zoysiagrass putting greens. In fact, most of my golf is played on one of those two surfaces. Sometimes people ask me about the ball roll on zoysia compared with roll on bermudagrass.

The NTEP 2013 National Warm-Season Greens Test has data on grass performance, with ball roll distance reported for multiple locations.1 This NTEP test includes some varieties that are commercially available, and it also has data on experimental varieties. I summarized in this first chart the average speed for three common bermudagrass (Cynodon) varieties and three zoysia varieties for the final three years of the test: 2015, 2016, and 2017.

For bermudagrass the chart shows Tifeagle, Miniverde, and Tifdwarf, averaged. And for zoysia, it’s showing Lazer, Trinity, and Diamond, averaged.

Averaged across all sites and months, those bermudagrass varieties had a median speed of 7.67 feet and those zoysia varieties had a median speed of 6.35 feet. Seems kind of slow, but this is under research conditions where the key point is that the bermuda and zoysia are grown in the same soils and maintained the same — it’s a test made under controlled conditions.

So we can take those numbers and extrapolate a bit. What if we did the work necessary to have bermudagrass greens rolling 10 feet? What type of ball roll distance would we expect on zoysia greens with the same amount of work? Zoysia greens would roll about 8.3 feet if maintained in the same way that produces bermuda greens at about 10 feet.

And what if work was done to get zoysia greens rolling at 10 feet? The expected roll on bermudagrass greens, after the same amount of work, would be 12.1 feet.

I also looked at a few varieties on their own. This chart shows Tifeagle (bermudagrass), along with the relatively new Trinity and Lazer varieties of zoysiagrass.

These results have a striking similarity to the measurements I’ve made on greens planted to different species, which I’ve written about in reference to the ease of producing green speeds for different species of grass.

  1. The locations with ball roll measurements are: Jay, Florida; Lexington, Kentucky; Rancho Mirage, California; Richmond, Virginia; Starkville, Mississippi; and Tucson, Arizona. ↩︎