Avoiding Course Preparation Slowdowns July 5, 2019 By Zach Nicoludis, agronomist, Central Region

A logjam on the first tee is not necessarily a green light for sending play off any open hole. The maintenance staff needs time to get things prepared before golfers start playing. 

Most golf facilities do not have the equipment and labor to complete all maintenance tasks ahead of play on both the front nine and back nine at the same time. Superintendents develop an efficient strategy for working through the golf course every morning to deliver quality, consistent conditions before play catches up. Typically, the order in which holes are prepared follows specific routes based on the exact time it takes to complete a given task without interruption. When golfers are playing a hole, even a simple job can be delayed. As a result, it is important that play follows a specific order so that tasks can be done in the most time-efficient manner, and so that a hole is ready for play when golfers arrive. If the protocol is for play to start exclusively on the first hole, jumping ahead could throw a wrench in the gears of the maintenance team.

Whether it is a sudden influx of golfers wishing to tee off at the exact same time, or a frost delay that causes a backup, starting play off the 10th tee certainly makes it possible to accommodate more golfers in a shorter period of time. However, it is important that players check with course officials before rushing to tee off the back nine.

Some golf courses routinely start play from both the first and 10th tee in order to maximize course use. For this approach to be successful, sufficient maintenance equipment and personnel must be available, and pace of play must be carefully monitored to avoid backups.

Starting play on the 10th tee may not seem like a big deal, but it can cause major delays for the maintenance staff and can negatively impact course conditioning. It is imperative that the golf shop staff and maintenance team work together closely and communicate to avoid problems.


Central Region Agronomists:

Bob Vavrek, regional director –

John Daniels, agronomist –

Zach Nicoludis, agronomist –

Information on the USGA’s Course Consulting Service 

Contact the Green Section Staff

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