Tick Tips May 3, 2019 By Bob Vavrek, regional director, Central Region

Tall grass roughs are home to many errant shots where hungry ticks are eagerly waiting for your reluctance to give up on lost balls.

Warm weather has been agonizingly slow to arrive across the Upper Midwest, which has golfers champing at the bit to try out their new clubs on actual turf instead of in a golf simulator. Unfortunately, big swings with unfamiliar clubs often result in equally big slices or hooks for those trying to shake winter’s rust off their game.

Some of those errant shots will land in water, woods or tall grass. Tall grass is where golfers spend the most time looking for a lost ball and this provides ample opportunities for ticks to attach to shoes or clothing. Mosquitoes generally aren’t a problem during spring until rain and warmer weather occurs, so golfers rarely use insect repellents for early season play. However, not using products that contain DEET, picaridin and other proven tick-repellents increases your risk of a tick bite if you end up spending significant time in the deep roughs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported cases of Lyme disease have tripled since the late 1990s. A variety of other tickborne diseases are on the rise too and the ranges of dangerous deer ticks and lone star ticks are expanding. Refer to the CDC’s recommendations for preventing tick bites for some very useful tips to keep you safe from these crawly critters. A few recommendations to consider include:

  • Use products that contain permethrin to treat clothing such as shoes, pants and socks, or look for clothing pretreated with permethrin.
  • Use proven tick repellents.
  • Wear light-colored shoes, socks and pants to make ticks more visible. Consider tucking pants into your socks before tromping through tall grass when searching for a ball.
  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors to wash off ticks and more easily find crawling ticks before they bite you.
  • Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror upon returning from tick-infested areas. The CDC recommendations provide a helpful tick-check procedure.


Fortunately, ticks require a fair amount of time to attach and feed before diseases can be transmitted, unlike pests such as mosquitoes or black flies that land and bite immediately. Of course, this advantage is lost if you ignore the possibility of their presence and threat to your health.

For some, a considerable amount of time is wasted searching for lost balls in tall grass during a round of golf. Think of the benefit if only a fraction of that time was spent on searching yourself for ticks during and after play.


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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