Courses prepared for snowbirds
By Derek Highley
WESLEY CHAPEL — The outdoor thermometer at my house reads in the 80s on most days, but fall is here and for most northern states cooler temperatures have long since arrived.
As golf courses up north close for the winter, around here superintendents are prepping courses to attract northerners in search of warmer weather — hopefully with clubs in tow.
What you are going to notice over the next few weeks is winter overseeding. The process involves the transition from warm-climate Bermuda grass to perennial rye for the cooler season.
There are conflicting opinions for overseeding, but for the most part it is purely cosmetic. As Bermuda grass goes dormant, courses turn brown. This look is not exactly ideal for attracting northerners in search of green.
It will be interesting to see if the current economy sways some golf course operators into forgoing the expense associated with overseeding. It is almost a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario.
Skipping out on overseeding could save golf courses upward of $1000 an acre on grass seed, not to mention the costs of extra water, labor and fertilizer. The gamble is: Will a brown course lose winter golfers to greener pastures?
As a golfer living here year-round I actually welcome the change in playing conditions that the dormant Bermuda grass brings. I don’t need to play on green grass year-round and I can fully appreciate why a course would forgo the process.
With that said, as a former course operator I understand the pressure to provide golfers with the best turf conditions throughout the winter, as well as the necessity to overseed.
The best solution is to meet aesthetics and economics somewhere in the middle. Overseed the greens, fairways and tees, and let the rough go dormant. I actually find the look aesthetically pleasing.
So if you notice extra maintenance going on at your local golf course over the next few weeks, you now know what they are doing. Be prepared for verti-cutting, scalping and aeration of current turf, followed by extra watering and cart path only rules.
The bright side is, it should only last a few weeks. In the end, the course should be better for it, or at the very least look prettier.
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