November 13, 2008
For southwestern desert courses, the annual overseeding ritual is now complete for 2008. Weather and temperature patterns during renovation and establishment are always the big unknowns, but, by all accounts, it was a successful season. Each year, golf courses make adjustments to the renovation and seeding process in an effort to produce better overseeded conditions for the winter while doing their best to preserve the underlying bermudagrass for the summer. This year was especially interesting due to several economic and agronomic factors, and the following is a brief summary of the issues that affected overseeding programs in the Southwest.
Issues affecting overseeding in 2008
- Higher cost for seed - all courses reported paying more for perennial ryegrass seed this year compared to previous years. The higher cost, combined with delivery surcharges, were additional hits to the budget. Many courses adjusted their program by reducing the overseeding rate or reducing the total amount of acreage that is normally overseeded.
- Looming water crisis - California, Arizona, and Nevada are facing severe water shortages that affected decisions and practices for overseeding.
- Protecting bermudagrass and easing spring transition problems - Gone are the days of the snow birds leaving at the end of May. More and more golfers live year-round in the desert southwest and want to play golf. There is a higher demand for good summer conditions and less tolerance for bare patches during spring transition and the remaining months of summer.
Overseeding trends in 2008
- Less renovation and less seed - Fifteen years ago, superintendents would scalp the bermudagrass to the dirt and seed into the stubble. Now greater emphasis is placed on retaining a good base of bermudagrass with less aggressive renovation, which has become the standard practice. Many courses reported reducing overseeding rates in the rough from 500 lb. / acre to 350 lbs. / acre. Some courses reduced seeding rates in fairways from the traditional 800 to 1,000 + lbs. / acre to 650 lbs. / acre.
- Reduction in overseeded acreage - The decision was made by several courses in Arizona and Nevada to limit overseeding to tees, fairways, and greens complexes in order to control costs for seed, water, and maintenance. These areas typically comprise 40 to 50 acres on an average 100 acre golf course, resulting in a 50% to 60% savings.
- Suspend overseeding - A few private clubs took the bold step of suspending overseeding for 2008. The main reasons were saving money on seed and water, in addition to building a stronger bermudagrass surface for next spring. Some clubs are discussing a plan to suspend overseeding every third year to preserve good bermudagrass quality.
- The use of green turf paint - Yes, it sounds strange, but we see painted turf every weekend when we watch NCAA and NFL football. A few courses are prepared to paint tees and fairways as the bermudagrass goes dormant to provide green color and visual appeal. Although painting costs are about the same as overseeding, there is a savings in labor and water use, along with the agronomic benefits of eliminating spring transition issues and actually speeding bermudagrass recovery in the spring.
Regional conference dates for 2009
Please mark the following dates for the USGA Regional Conferences in 2009:
- Monday, January 12, 2009. Southern California Regional Conference
The Victoria Club, Riverside, CA
- Monday, March 16, 2009. Northern California Regional Conference.
Sharon Heights Golf & Country Club, Menlo Park, CA.
- Monday, March 30, 2009. Arizona Regional Conference
Tuscany Falls GC, Pebble Creek Community, Goodyear, AZ
Source: Pat Gross ( email@example.com or 714-542-5766) is the Southwest regional director of the USGA Green Section.