As summer rolls along in full force, golf courses in the Southeast are at their busiest in one form or fashion. If you are managing cool-season putting greens, remember to stay positive and focus on plant health. If you are managing warm-season grasses, now is the time to focus on organic matter dilution and surface management with an eye on preparing for the fall.

After 60 days as a USGA agronomist, the most consistent trends I have witnessed are golf course renovations and upgrades. With an increase in rounds and delays to capital upgrades in 2020, golf courses have new and existing challenges to overcome. As exciting as renovations and projects are, golf courses need to be prepared and have a plan in place.

What is the goal?

Before planning a project, evaluate the top priorities for your golf course or club. Enhancing practice facilities, increasing teeing area, bunker renovations and converting to improved turfgrass varieties are projects that are currently trending in the industry. Define the goals and priorities of any project at the beginning of the planning process. It is never too early to have a priority list of needed renovations for your property.

Turfgrass Selection

There is no better way to test and learn about new turfgrass varieties than to plant them on your golf course. Visiting sod farms, research facilities and other golf courses is a great way to learn about new turfgrasses, but nothing beats in-house research. Developing a nursery area for new grasses is a great way to evaluate options for your facility. If nursery space is limited, planting new varieties in selected areas on the course is a great way to evaluate how grasses will perform under your normal maintenance program.

Think About the Future

Upgrading course features and facilities is the flashy part of the process. Although less exciting, planning for infrastructure and maintenance adjustments to support these upgrades is critical to long-term success. It is often relatively easy to raise money for a new project, but maintenance and labor budgets may need to be increased to protect these capital investments. Operating budgets are important, but additional time and equipment may also be needed to maintain these newly renovated areas. If possible, design projects to reduce labor inputs and improve the long-term maintenance efficiency at your course.

Keep in mind that golf course architects and builders are very busy right now as courses try to catch up on projects. Reach out to key project team members early to make sure you are on their radar for future work. The increase in renovation work and other supply-chain challenges also means that turfgrass propagation materials including seed, sod or sprigs may be scarce. Contact local sod farms or seed distributors to plan for your project as soon as possible.

If you're looking for additional resources to ensure a successful renovation, the Green Section is here to help! A USGA agronomist can work closely with you during all facets of a golf course renovation project through our Course Consulting Service. A GPS Service Visit is also something to consider prior to a renovation because data on golfer traffic patterns can be helpful in identifying the potential resource savings associated with adjusting features like bunkers and native areas. We also have a number of educational articles on golf course renovation that can be very helpful. 

Southeast Region Agronomists:

Chris Hartwiger, director, USGA Course Consulting Service – chartwiger@usga.org

Steve Kammerer, Ph.D., senior consulting agronomist – skammerer@usga.org

Jordan Booth, agronomist – jbooth@usga.org

Information on the USGA’s Course Consulting Service

Contact the Green Section Staff