What Is Kikuyu Grass?

One of the most common types of grass to be found on golf courses, we take a look at Kikuyu in this piece.

What Is Kikuyu Grass
Torrey Pines is possibly the most famous course with kikuyu grass (Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

One of the most common types of grass to be found on golf courses, we take a look at Kikuyu in this piece.

What Is Kikuyu Grass?

A term used regularly by golf's commentators and players, kikuyu grass is very common in many golf courses especially in the United States. But what exactly is it and where did it originally come from? Let's take a look.

What Is Kikuyu Grass?

The word 'Kikuyu' is the name of a tribe in Kenya that is traditionally the largest tribe in the country. They are the tribe at the heart of the country's agriculture which explains why the type of grass found there was named after them.

The grass was brought over to the United States just before the First World War. The Department of Agriculture wanted to test it and found that it was a type of grass that needed almost constant warmth. Therefore this explains why it found its way to states like California where there is very little rain at all.

Another aspect to Kikuyu grass is how quickly it spreads when the conditions are right. For example the grass was introduced to Riviera Country Club to replace the polo fields and yet the grass spread itself rapidly over the golf course. The groundskeepers struggled to hold it back because it is so aggressive especially when cut to a low height so as a result they decided to let the invasion take over.

Tiger plays from the thick rough at Riviera during the Genesis Open (Getty Images)

Usually kikuyu grass is used for fairways and rough, for example at Torrey Pines. Players usually love playing off the grass from the fairway because most of the time it gives great lies, however from the rough it is a different story.

Kikuyu grass is often described as thick or grabby when players try to extricate themselves from the rough. In fact some players have injured themselves trying to get their ball out of it because it grabs the club and ball in such a way.

Johnson plays out of Kikuyu grass at the WGC-Mexico Championship (Getty Images)

Additionally, the ball either sits on top of the rough or sits down which makes shots from around the green very difficult. The bump and run shot in particular is not really possible in kikuyu grass because it acts as a sponge for the ball.

Some famous courses that have kikuyu grass include Torrey Pines, Riviera and Club de Golf Chapultepec, the host of the WGC-Mexico Championship.

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