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The Minimal Overseeding Movement

The WSJ's John Paul Newport looks at the movement toward minimal or no winter rye grass overseeding at southwestern courses and the ensuing (or lack of) reaction from golfers.

A few progressive courses are pursuing alternative overseeding strategies. Phoenix Country Club did "reverse" overseeding this fall: allowing its fairways to go dormant, but overseeding the rough. The rationale, according to course superintendent Charlie Costello, is partly to reduce the club's carbon footprint by using less fertilizer, fuel and water. For members, an added advantage—this one more fun—is that drives roll out on the firmer, faster dormant turf an extra 30 to 50 yards.

At Desert Mountain, a private residential enclave in Scottsdale with six Jack Nicklaus courses, two courses each year are not being overseeded, on a rotating basis. The practice gives the Bermuda turf a year to recover from its annual battle with the rye, and creates a window for groundskeepers to eradicate the unwanted poa annua grass that threatens to creep onto the greens.

"It can be a tough sell, but attitudes are definitely evolving," said the USGA's Whitlark, who has sat it on several meetings at clubs across the Southwest at which greens committees have tried to persuade members to overseed less.

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Reader Comments (8)

understand not overseeding.
But not overseeding rough unless irrigation can only water rough without

overlap into dormant fairways
12.15.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPat Burke
The dormant bermuda in the south, depending on the strain, can sometimes become almost unplayable, especially if it's a wet winter. The key that I have seen in places like Charlotte and Raleigh, is to keep the carts off the fairways in the winter. Most of the guys I know don't care about the "green look", they just want to have something to put the ball on. Keeping the carts off the fairways, with most bermuda grass, makes the playing surface almost as good as in the summer. Private courses seem to be able to pull this off better than the public and resort facilities.
12.16.2012 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
I have seen many courses in Japan that go with all dormant bermuda in the winter. However, it is so yellow that there is no contrast with which to see the ball. People have to look around the estimated landing area for a couple of minutes which adds significantly to the time needed to play a round (rounds are already slow in Japan because of the local golf customs). And those yellow Srixon balls don't help in this matter.
12.16.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRob
Heck, I've found that a really healthy stand of bermuda in it's dormant state to be one of the finest hitting surfaces available!

Rob, try a pink golf ball. Not kidding. I stumbled on this once when playing a late fall round with my Mom and Dad when fairways were dormant and there were still a lot of leaves on the ground. The one pink ball in the group shone like a beacon while the others were quite elusive! Picked up a box of pink right after the round....
12.16.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
I love dormant bermuda...FAST greens! That slow growing period and the terrible period when the rye is not quite dead and gone.... wastes 2-3 months a year thru these transitions.

The one problem with dormant bermuda, is ball marks on the green are hard to repair, and of course a divot does not grow back, but most people down here play ''winter rules'' and roll the ball that time of year.
12.16.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
In my time around Charlotte/Gastonia (the transition zone) greens were usually bent, while everything else was a strain of bermuda. YES...there are big differences. The common bermuda at Charlotte CC (before the redo), Carolina CC, Myers, etc were total crap in the winter. Basically sandy dirt and viney brown grass. Whilst at our rednecky home course (Cramer Mtn) had new 419Bermuda that are my favorite playing surfaces overall...anywhere. The ball sat up nicely and the rough kinda played like "flyer or flublike" depending on the height....about right. It was great in the winter as long as heavy traffic stayed off the wet spots....hence carts on paths, but we hoofed it like billy goats anyways.

Yes, on some dry days white balls are hard to find...but that can only help you figure out your move.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz
dormant bermuda can give your course a linksy feel and Royal Links in Vegas is fun to play right now
12.17.2012 | Unregistered Commentersmiledoc
Courses in the desert southwest should actually be promoting a good poa stand in the winter , because it re-seeds itself , and burns out quickly when the heat returns. Desert courses don't have to struggle near as much with poa hanging around too long.
12.18.2012 | Unregistered CommenterTom

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