Proactive Communication Yields Smoother Transition

By Brian Whitlark, agronomist, Southwest Region
June 7, 2012


It is that lovely time of year again in the desert southwest when ryegrass grows closer to an ugly grave and the underlying bermudagrass struggles to recover after being buried alive during fall overseeding. It is better to be proactive and alert golfers to the forthcoming change in golf course aesthetics, playability and more aggressive cultural practices that always seem to be associated with transition.  

The following message is an example of how one turf manager set the expectations regarding the impending transition from ryegrass to the underlying bermudagrass.  The letter was distributed to the membership via mass-email, through postings in the men’s and women’s locker room and each department head received a copy.


It is time to reflect on the part of the season that is most interesting for players and superintendents alike:  TRANSITION!!!  I write today to help communicate this process because many are new to the club and may not understand how it all unfolds. 

Let’s begin by saying that the summer season at all golf courses in the region is the time to prepare the course for the coming year. Transition, aeration, verticutting, and projects are all being performed during June, July, and August. This is because the bermudagrass must be re-established for overseeding (transition), thatch and compaction must be controlled (aeration), and projects get scheduled based on the amount of play during this time, and of course, bermudagrass growth peaks during the summer. 

Starting around June 1st, the golf course begins to lose the ryegrass overseed due to the increased temperatures. Ryegrass, a cool season grass, cannot withstand the summer heat, and will ultimately die. Part of the art and science involved with transition is to “clear out” the ryegrass so that the bermudagrass can take over. We do this the first or second week in June with a light chemical application to slowly kill the ryegrass. The fun then begins as we fertilize and water heavily to encourage the bermuda recovery. Let me repeat, we fertilize and WATER heavily to encourage the bermudagrass growth and not allow it to dry out. This all has to be done while golfers continue to play and enjoy the golf course.  As such, the golf course will be wetter than normal during this period. It is important that you understand this and enjoy the course as it goes through the process. Expecting “Augusta” conditions during this time will result in disappointment. 

At this point the golf course can take on a somewhat unfavorable aesthetic and will not play firm and fast. Don’t fret; it is a necessary evil to accomplish our objective to recover the bermuda base. Without this base, our overseeding would be jeopardized, and ruin our fall, winter and spring seasons. This program takes 4 to 6 weeks to fully recover, so during this time frame please understand our goals and how the course will look and play. 

THE GOOD NEWS: The greens almost always transition fine and we keep them in great shape during the transition phase. You can continue to enjoy the course with good greens, roughs, bunkers, and tees. The fairways will be decent, some better than others based on sun exposure.  Simply roll the ball over and enjoy the course for a couple of weeks while we work earnestly to get it back in top condition. 

I hope this helps you better understand the process and all will still be able to enjoy the course. 

Have a Great Summer,  

Kirby Putt 

Course Superintendent 


Thank you to Mr. Kirby Putt who not only has the perfect last name for golf, but is an excellent communicator and turf manager.


Source:  Brian Whitlark ( or 480.215.1958

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