What is a Buffer?

vegetated buffer around water bodies is often considered a BMP
Golf Club of Dublin, Dublin, OH

What is a Buffer?

Placed between turfgrass and a body of water, a buffer can significantly reduce nutrient and sediment runoff.
Written by: Jean MacKay

This article defines and describes effective vegetative buffers around water bodies and maintains that a turfgrass buffer is a valuable management strategy.


  • Maintaining good water quality is a prominent environmental concern for golf courses.


  • A vegetated buffer around water bodies is often considered a best management practice and is recommended by the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for golf courses.
  • Vegetated buffers are defined as the area around the edge of a water body specifically maintained with plants that reduce storm water flow and potential pollution from runoff.
  • A vegetated filter strip is a vegetated buffer of turfgrass mown at a height of three inches or as high as possible for the particular turfgrass species.
  • Research shows that vegetated filter strips maintained at widths between 15 feet and 30 feet reduced nutrient runoff from adjacent areas by 90% to 99%, respectively, and sediment removal rates were generally greater than 70% (US EPA 1993).
  • Slope, type of vegetation, playability, and potential pollution from maintenance practices, including chemical applications, factor into the best height, width, and overall size of a vegetated buffer.
  • Where a full buffer around the water body cannot be maintained, proper use of slow-release or natural organic fertilizers or spoon-feeding can help reduce the potential for chemical runoff into water sources.
  • The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program focuses on both water quality and wildlife, hence they recommend that golf courses add emergent and shoreline plants other than turfgrass around water bodies where practical.

Arrowhead, pickerelweed, sedges, and bulrushes help oxygenate the water and provide food and shelter for a great variety of wildlife. This taller emergent vegetation may affect playability or the perception of playability and should be considered carefully.

Published: 2001 United States Golf Association, Green Section Record September/October 2001

Link to Full Article

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