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.