Turf Grasses

Learn the distinguishing characteristics of different Turf Grasses. Make better selections of species/cultivars to use and how to manage them. Explore relevant varieties for all turf situations including sports turf, amenity turf and residential turf.

Course Code: BHT342
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn to Determine What Turf Grass Cultivars to Use

This course takes turf knowledge to the next step - be an expert!

This course begins by developing a deeper understanding of grass physiology, so that you can better see and understand the often subtle differences between different species of grasses, and different cultivars within those species.

From there, you learn about the characteristics of the vast majority of species and sub species of grasses that are used for lawns and turf around the world. You compare many of the cultivars in common use for sporting, commercial and residential turf in Australasia, the UK and Europe, North America and elsewhere.

The course finishes by considering why and how different species and/or cultivars are purposefully grown together to achieve results that might not be as good if only one cultivar were used.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • What is grass
    • Grass structure (Morphology)
    • Description of grasses
    • Grass flowers and florets
    • Grass terminology - botanical terms
    • Cultivar selection criteria
    • Classification of turf grass genera
    • Botanical tribes of turf grasses
    • How turf grasses are developed
  2. Turf Grass Physiology and Fescues
    • Seed viability factors
    • Morphology of a typical grass
    • Flowers
    • Tillering, stolons, rhizomes
    • Roots
    • Shoots - inter vaginal and extra vafinal growth
    • Root shoot ratio
    • Recuperative potential
    • Ways to identify grasses
    • Botanical Key for selected common grasses
    • Identifying tips for rye grasses, fescues, bents, bluegrasses and others
    • Tall fescue
    • Hard fescue
    • Meadow fescue
    • Red fescue
    • Chewings fescue
    • Major warm season grasses - couch, carpet grass, etc
  3. Bentgrasses
    • Introduction to the genus
    • Species
    • Creeping bent
    • Colonial bent grass
    • Velvet bent grass
    • Red top bent grass
    • Highland bent
    • Idaho bent
    • Bent grass cultivars - seaside, pencross, penn series etc.
  4. Ryegrasses
    • Introduction
    • Perennial rye grsss - description, cultivars
    • Italian ryegrass - cultivars, hybrids
    • Annual rye grass
    • Darnel
    • Rye grass cultivars
  5. Bluegrasses
    • Kentucky Bluegrass - Poa pratensis
    • Annual Bluegrass or Winter Grass - Poa annua
    • Supina Bluegrass - Poa supina
    • Texas Bluegrass - Poa arachnifera
    • Rough Bluegrass - Poa trivialis
    • Canada Bluegrass - Poa compressa
    • Upland Bentgrass - Poa glaucantha
    • Wood Bluegrass - Poa nemoralis
    • Bulbous Bluegrass - Poa bulbosa
  6. Couchgrasses
    • Couchgrass or Bermudagrass - Cynodon dactylon
    • South African Couch - Cynodon transvaalensis
    • Hybrid Couch - cultivars selected from cross breeding Cynodon dactylon with Cynodon transvaalensis
    • Queensland Blue Couch - Digitaria didactyla
    • Salt Water Couch - Paspalum vaginatum
  7. Buffalo and Zoysia Grasses
    • Buffalo grasses
    • Zoysia grasses - species, cultivars, culture
    • Stenotaphrum
    • Bouteloua
    • Buchloe
  8. Other Warm Condition Grasses
    • Centipede grass - introduction, culture, cultivars
    • Paspalum
    • Seashore paspalum
    • Bahia grass
    • Pennisetum - fountain grass, kikuyu
    • Carpet grass
    • Sweet smoother
    • Comparing drought tolerance
  9. Other Cool Condition Grasses
    • Hair grasses
    • Turf grass Mixes
    • Timothy grass
    • Beach grass
    • Wheat grass
    • Crested dog tail
    • Salt marsh grass
    • Brome grass
    • Phalaris
  10. Turf Grass Mixes
    • Introduction
    • Seasonal variations
    • Good and bad mixes
    • Research
    • Advantages of blended mixes
    • Problems of blended mixes
    • What mixes with what
    • Working with seasonal growth patterns

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Recognise the characteristics that differentiate turf grass cultivars one from another, in order to make choices about what cultivars are appropriate for different turf applications.
  • Describe the characteristics, culture and uses of Fescue grasses as a turf.
  • Describe the characteristics, culture and uses of Bent grasses as a turf.
  • Describe the characteristics, culture and uses of Rye grasses as a turf.
  • Describe the characteristics, culture and uses of Blue grasses as a turf.
  • Describe the characteristics, culture and uses of Couch grasses as a turf.
  • Describe the characteristics, culture and use of Buffalo and Zoysia grasses.
  • Describe the characteristics, culture and uses of various warm condition grasses as a turf.
  • Describe the characteristics, culture and uses of various cool condition grasses as a turf.
  • Explain the dynamics at play when different varieties of turf grass grow together.

Why are Multiple Varieties Grown Together?

There are thousands of different turf grass cultivars, and they all perform differently.

  • Some are hardier
  • Some require less care and attention
  • Some can be mown much lower to produce a very even surface for use in sport.
  • Some grow better in winter, others are better in summer
  • Some grow in harmony with some others.
  • Some will dominate and suppress growth when mixed with others
  • There are many other points of difference.

Growth will strengthen or weaken in different species (and cultivars), across different seasons. Cynodon dactylon (Couch), for example, grows more strongly in warm weather, but can become quite dormant in the cold. Rye grass (Lolium perenne), may grow in cooler weather but growth can weaken as weather heats up.

When growth is strong, grasses can recover faster and more effectively from stresses such as mowing heavy traffic or an extreme weather event.

A turf sward that is made up of a single species will be robust when conditions are ideal; but when conditions are adverse, that turf sward will be weak, and more susceptible to serious or even permanent deterioration. If compatible grass species, with different climatic requirements are grown together, the turf can become more robust across a wider range of conditions.

The sum of two grasses can be more than either individual. The challenge is to ensure the varieties you mix are compatible.

When conditions cause one grass cultivar to die; the second might invade the dead patches. When conditions become more favourable again for the suppressed grass, it will recover.


Who Should Do this Course?

  • Green keepers, Groundsmen, Turf Managers
  • Seedsmen, equipment suppliers, marketers/ retailers, gardeners or anyone else dealing with lawns or turf
  • Anyone else seeking an in depth knowledge of different turf cultivars and their management.

Anyone who works with Turf Grasses needs to know the things that this course covers.



ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.

Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.

Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.

ACS is a Preferred Member Training Provider with the Australian Institute of Horticulture. ACS students meeting AIH criteria can join AIH as a Category 2 student member.

Principal John Mason has been honoured to be awarded a Fellow of Parks and Leisure Australia, having been an active member since 1974.

Our Principal John Mason, was awarded a fellowship by the Australian Institute of Horticulture in 2010

Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason has been a member of the International Scociety of Horticultural Science since 2003

UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

John Mason (Horticulturist)

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant.
Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK.
He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world.

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