A Place We Call Home

There's nothing like the perfect piece of sod
23 Lipping Out A Place to Call Home

I’ve never been good at identifying the types of grass I’m playing. Anything beyond the difference between Bermuda and bent and I’m out of my league. But boy, do I love good turf. 

Let’s experiment: Close your eyes and think about the best fairways you’ve ever played. I bet you immediately know the course. I bet you can even smell it. Good grass has a different scent. It crunches differently under your shoes. Balls react better on amazing grass. Divots seem to rip apart as a team instead of a bunch of individual players without any chemistry. 

Every golfer has an internal convo on the way to an unknown golf course that starts with a) I hope the greens aren’t punched, b) I hope the greens are nice and c) I hope the rough isn’t too intense. Turf is on our minds as we’re pounding the pavement to make that tee time. 

I want to be clear: This isn’t some 1990s “everything has to be Augusta National adjacent” theory that doomed a good chunk of golf courses where the fun level never approached the greens fees. Good turf isn’t defined by a color or a strand. It’s defined by effort and feeling.

Golf course grass—and I mean every single golf course in the world—feels different than the stuff we have at our homes. But it can feel as familiar as your favorite chair. Yes, there are many patches we’ll never find. Maybe they’re too far down the fairway. Maybe they’re tucked against a tight dogleg that we’ve never quite figured out how to shape. But there is grass we all know intimately. Places on your most-played tracks that you feel like you’re always in, no matter which club you hit off the tee or which shot you have in mind. I know spots at Marshall Lakeside in Texas, where I grew up playing, and Dobson Ranch in Arizona, where I grew up gambling, that I’ve thought many times need a plaque that says “Shane’s Place.” Depending on the shot, I will love and hate these spots, but they’re always mine. 

I remember playing with a dude in high school who would keep great divots from courses and take them home to plant in his backyard. I’m not sure what happened with that plan, but I always chuckle thinking about his yard just full of 8-inch divot patches.

A few years ago, I asked on my social media what was the most random thing people take and collect from golf courses. A guy responded with a wall of divots he proudly showcased in his office. (It garnered multiple “Psycho!” responses, like Adam Sandler’s character makes after that first-tee exchange in Happy Gilmore. Not from me. I respect that brand of commitment.)

There’s no doubt that we all think about turf more than we tell our non-golfing friends and family. And once we’re safely among our fellow golf nerds, we can have a 40-minute conversation about the sponginess of a tee box. No matter if it’s perfect like an October morning at Oakmont or midsummer-in-Arizona brown, turf is there for what we want most: to peg it, compress it and pray the ball rolls true.

Shane Bacon is the host of the podcast Get a Grip and author of the children’s book The Golfer’s Zoo. He’s been a Broken Tee Society member since 2017.