As golfers, we should always be doing our part to help care for the courses we play on, but contributing to course care is especially important this year. Many golf course superintendents have been operating with reduced budgets and fewer staff members due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They have been forced to focus on critical tasks, like mowing, and have postponed or eliminated many other important maintenance practices. Courses will be playing catch-up for a while and doing what we can to help keep them in good shape will help maintenance teams focus on the most important tasks. A little extra effort on our part might also make a big impact on playing conditions because some of the routine repairs we’ve come to expect from the maintenance staff may not happen for a while. Here are five ways golfers can help care for the course during this challenging season:
Repair ball marks
Repairing ball marks is something we should always be doing. Unfortunately, maintenance staffs often spend a significant amount of time each year fixing unrepaired ball marks so they don’t negatively impact playability and aesthetics for weeks to come. This year, the last thing maintenance teams need to be doing is a job we can easily do ourselves. If you repair your ball mark and a couple of others with the proper technique, you’ll be doing everyone a favor.
Repair your divots
Repairing our divots correctly is another easy way to make a difference this year. Maintenance teams may not have the resources to fix unrepaired divots, and the scars can be lasting. Improperly repaired divots can take months to heal – if they ever fully heal at all. This leaves the risk of a bad lie in the fairway for our fellow golfers. Repairing our divots correctly, along with a few others for good measure, will go a long way toward keeping fairways smooth this year.
Follow cart rules
We all know that golf carts can damage a course if they aren’t used properly, if traffic gets heavy, or if weather conditions aren’t conducive to cart traffic. This year there is added pressure with the single-rider cart policies enacted at many courses. Don’t be surprised to see more cart restrictions this season as courses try to limit the damage. Following the rules and keeping carts on paths as much as possible will make a difference. If you’re able to walk more often this year, that certainly won’t hurt either.
Smooth the sand
Bunker conditions may be a little rougher than what many of us have become accustomed to. Many courses have removed rakes to reduce touchpoints and maintenance teams may not have the same amount of time to spend on bunkers as they have in the past. A bad lie in a bunker is not the end of the world, but if we can do our best to smooth footprints and other disturbances with a club or our feet it will reduce the number of tough spots out there this year. It’s not the ideal way to smooth bunker sand but doing the best you can will help.
Adjust our expectations
Many golf courses in the U.S. have started this season behind schedule. Due to staffing and budget challenges, important practices like aeration and topdressing had to be scaled back or postponed. Heights of cut were raised to reduce mowing requirements and countless detail-oriented tasks had to be skipped entirely. One of the best ways to help golf courses through this difficult time is by being understanding if we find course conditioning or presentation is different than what we’re used to. There’s a good reason behind it, and this year has reminded us all that just being out there playing the game we love is something to celebrate.