A Complete Guide to Managing Aquatic Weeds on Golf Courses

A pond with manicured lawns and trees in the background

Beyond highlighting the beauty of nature, healthy water sources are beneficial to their environments and the people and animals surrounding them.  For golf courses, a pond or stream not only offers visual variety and obstacles for golfers, but more importantly, it also stabilizes the surrounding soil and habitats for fish, other wildlife, and aquatic plants. 

However, it can be an ongoing challenge to keep your water sources healthy and the aquatic plant life in check.  For most water sources, only about 20% of the surface should be covered with aquatic vegetation, according to Clemson University’s Land-Grant Press.  

Anything more than that will disrupt the natural balance of the water and the surrounding areas, causing rapid growth of aquatic vegetation that destabilizes the nutrients in the water, endangers the lives of the organisms who depend on it, and causes unsightly issues for the entire area.  

Our turfgrass experts have compiled a number of factors that you should be aware of as you evaluate aquatic weeds to ensure that your ponds remain a pleasing and positive focal point for any golf course or commercial property.

What are aquatic weeds?  

Aquatic weeds are any plant growing in or near a water source that interferes with the activities or welfare of aquatic life and ecosystems.  

Types of Aquatic Weeds

Aquatic weeds are commonly categorized into three types based on their location in and around the water source: emergent, floating, and submerged, per the University of Kentucky’s Department of Entomology.

Cattails, or tall wild plants, growing next to a pond.


Emergent Plants usually grow near the shore or in shallow water.  A recognizable example in the Midwest is Cattails.


Floating Plants thrive on or just below the surface of the water.  Their roots usually extend deeper into the water.  Moss (filamentous algae) and duckweed are great examples.

A person holding the green tangled strands of filamentous algae
Green foam with thick plants growing in the middle


Submerged plants grow primarily underwater. Examples of submerged plants are pondweed and hydrilla.

What problems do aquatic weeds cause?  

In addition to turning your gorgeous pond into an eyesore, aquatic weeds can destroy the ecosystem that relies on your water source.  For example, when allowed to go unchecked, algae, which is a food source for fish, can block sunlight from penetrating the water, and lower the oxygen in the water, which will cause harm to other plants and animals.  

Other plants can become invasive and quickly spread into your roughs and greens, requiring costly removal. That is why pond management is vital to both the health of your water source and the environment surrounding it.  

What can you do to prevent aquatic weeds? 

To avoid the hard work, expense, and complexity of removing plants after they grow, you should develop a sound strategy to prevent their growth entirely.  By committing to the following steps, you may be able to stop the infestation before it begins.

Use native vegetation to cover the shoreline 

Sometimes, you have to fight fire with fire.  Or in this case, plants with plants.  By planting native vegetation at the shoreline of water sources, you will create a buffer zone between land and water that will diminish stormwater runoff or pollutants and nutrients from entering the water, per the Land-Grant Press.  Be sure to make sure to use plants that are native to the area to avoid invasive growth.

Utilize fertilizer as needed

Fertilizers add nutrients to the soil intended to increase plant growth.  Therefore, it’s important to follow the manufacter’s instructions closely to avoid encouraging unwanted plants’ growth.  Also, be sure not to use fertilizers if forecasted to rain or storm within 72 hours after application.

Do not leave soil bare

It’s recommended that you cover bare soil with mulch or ground cover plants to prevent the spread of any pollutants in the soil and land erosion from the wind and rain.  This will also prevent your soil from moving into nearby water sources.  Utilizing your preferred mulch is a great and aesthetically pleasing way to cover land and prevent the growth of aquatic weeds.

Types of Aquatic Weed Control 

If the prevention methods don’t work, there are always practical techniques designed to control aquatic weeds. Here are the most common and effective methods: 

  • Mechanical control: Aquatic weeds can be removed by hand-pulling, raking, or dredging. This can be time-consuming, labor-intensive, and ineffective for large infestations.
  • Biological control: This method leverages natural predators or competitors to control aquatic weeds. This can include stocking water bodies with fish that feed on aquatic plants or introducing plant-eating insects.
  • Chemical control: Herbicides can be used to control aquatic weeds, but this should be done carefully to avoid harming non-targeted species or contaminating nearby water sources. Herbicides should be applied by a licensed professional following proper guidelines and regulations.
  • Integrated management: This involves using a combination of the previously mentioned techniques to manage aquatic weeds.

How to Manage Aquatic Weeds on Your Golf Course

Managing aquatic weeds can be a complex process that requires the careful consideration of four major factors: water quality, the type of aquatic weed, the surrounding environment, and local regulations.  

Poor water quality can lead to an imbalance of nutrients and excessive growth of unwanted aquatic plants.  Next, consider the type of weed that needs to be removed or controlled because different weeds need different kinds of product or method for removal. 

Also, the surrounding environment should be taken into consideration when controlling aquatic weeds.  When deciding on the weed control solution to use, you have to factor in how it will affect other plants and wildlife and the safety of people who play and work on your golf course. 

Finally, be sure to stay apprised of the local regulations for chemical and mechanical treatment of aquatic weeds in your area.  Depending on where you are, there could be restrictions on chemicals, timing, and methods of weed removal, so it’s crucial to be aware of those local rules and policies and follow them properly.

The Reinders team has developed a variety of expert solutions for the management of aquatic weeds that weighs in all of these factors to create a safe and successful plan.  

Step 1: Gather important information BEFORE treatment

It’s incredibly important to collect the necessary information before you use any chemicals or products in your water source.  This will help you avoid damaging the water and nearby land and causing more serious and expensive problems.

Make sure you know the size and depth of your water source, and of course, take pictures of the problem plants you’d like to remove.

Next, use the photos to identify the type of nuisance aquatic weeds you’d like to control or remove.  Texas A&M’s Aquatic Weed Guide is an extremely helpful and easy-to-use resource.

Step 2: Contact your Reinders representative 

The next and final step is very crucial: contact your local Reinders representative before taking any action.  Our reps have decades of experience in aquatic weed control and can provide direct access to representatives from top aquatic chemical manufacturers for precise recommendations. They can provide soil testing resources and develop the best solutions and product recommendations for your particular problem.  

Once you and your rep have developed a plan, you will be able to get what you need on Reinders.com.

Contact us with questions you may have on aquatic weed control, golf course management, and more!

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