Practice Tee Divots – The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

By Chris Hartwiger, senior agronomist, Southeast Region
August 7, 2013

It’s not pretty, but it is reality. Practice tees are being used more heavily all across the country.

The number one question we continue to receive this summer is, “What can we do to improve our practice tee?” 

The Problem(s): 

  • Utilization patterns at golf facilities are changing. Golfers are spending more time practicing and less time playing. More balls hit equals more divots.
  • Most practice tees are limited in size. As a result, divots cannot recover fast enough to meet golfer expectations.
  • Divots that have covered over with grass are often criticized as being “too sandy” or not as good as fairway turf.

The Realities:

  • Golfers are correct. Most practice tee turf in the region does not match the quality of fairway turf in the region.
  • Healed divots do play as if they have a layer of leaves supported by sand because that is basically what they are. The grass has had just enough time to creep over the sand divot mix. 
  • The Southeast is an area where practice ranges may be open for 12 months of the year, but there is only four to five months of weather than is conducive to good divot healing. 

The Solution(s):

  • Embrace the fact that golfers are coming to your facility regularly and using the practice range. This is a good thing.
  • Acknowledge that space is limited given the expectation for fairway quality turf on the practice range tee. Few golf facilities with high volumes of practice can ever expand to have enough space.
  • Incorporate artificial surfaces into the rotation of the hitting stations. This may not be popular, but is necessary if better turf is desired. 
  • Teach golfers that a linear divot pattern displaces less turf and promotes faster recovery than either scattered-shot or concentrated divot patterns.

Resources:

Practice Like a Pro – Preferred Divot Pattern Explained  

Tailor Made – Calculating the Size of Practice Tee Needed  

USGA Turf Advisory On-Site Visit  

Source: Patrick O’Brien (patobrien@usga.org) and Chris Hartwiger (chartwiger@usga.org)

Information on the USGA’s Turf Advisory Service

Contact the Green Section Staff

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