Dealing With Cart Traffic

By Todd Lowe, senior agronomist, Florida Region
November 16, 2011

Ropes and stakes are unpopular with golfers but effective at protecting the turf at this time of year. 

The annual migration of northern golfers to our region has begun, and, with it, an influx of the number of rounds has occurred.  This increase in rounds happens at a time of year when bermudagrass growth decreases, and these two factors combine for unsightly playing conditions.

Golfers are creatures of habit, often choosing the path of least resistance, and continual golfer traffic over the same area stresses turf conditions.  The trodden leaves are not readily replaced with new, green leaves, and this creates yellow to tan coloration in affected areas.  Eventually, the soil becomes compacted and poor turf conditions occur.  The following steps should be taken at this time to protect turf and improve golf course quality:


  • Be proactive with traffic diversion.  Ropes and stakes are generally unfavorable with most memberships, but are very important for protecting turf.  Some areas are more prone to traffic damage, like ingress/egress areas, particularly where bunkers or trees adjacent to cart paths funnel traffic into specific locations.
  • Implement a rotating “Resting Hole” program.  This program allows one hole per nine to recover each week from cart traffic, as it is restricted to cart paths only.  In a typical program, holes #1 and #10 are deemed ‘cart path only’ during week 1.  Holes #2 and #11 are ‘cart path only’ in week 2, and so on.  Par 3 holes are automatically deemed ‘cart path only’ and are skipped.  Some fairways, like tight fairways or fairways stressed by nematodes, may require more frequent cart restriction, depending upon turf recovery. 
  • Supplemental soil cultivation practices.  It is important to identify high-traffic areas and to core aerate them prior to the season.  Additional solid-tine aeration can be implemented as soil temperatures allow adequate turf recovery.  Generally speaking, soil temperature at a 4-inch depth above 65F should be adequate to sustain bermudagrass recovery.  Otherwise, aeration holes will be visible for longer periods.


Golf carts have become a standard feature on golf courses in our region, and dealing with traffic issues has become a necessary part of the game.  Such measures are necessary to maintain good playing conditions in our region, especially during cooler months.

Source:  Todd Lowe, or 941-828-2625 


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