Friday, September 4, 2009

No overseed for 2009

To overseed or not to overseed, that is the question. The answer this year is not to overseed for the good of the course and to save $30,000. In the four winters I have been here, we have always overseeded all of the fairways, tees, approaches, green surrounds, and select areas of rough. At the same time, we were trying to stimulate bermudagrass in the summer by keeping the course dry. The problem is the bermuda has to compete with a new crop of perennial ryegrass every year and cannot fill in and mature before being hit by the following winter. This leads to thin and spotty fairways during the warmer months of the year.

A second problem with overseeding is compromising the best playing weather of the year. Fall is a great season to play golf, but an overseeding program will make it much less enjoyable. Here is a summary of the cons of overseed from a golfer's standpoint.

• Course is closed for two weeks in September(one 9 each week)
• Fairways are not mowed for 3-4 weeks and become pretty long, then fairways are maintained at 1.5 inches for 2 weeks, and down to 1 inch for another 2 weeks before arriving at .75 inches
• Very wet course with afternoon irrigation during germination 4 weeks total
• Carts on path for 3 weeks after 2 week partial closure
• Summer months will thin stand of ryegrass and fairways will be spotty (like now)

During the period of grow-in that includes wet conditions and long grass, I often hear the remark, "This place is unplayable." I agree. 2 inch fairways do not offer much enjoyment. By not overseeding, course conditions will be fantastic all the way through November. Of course, there is a trade off with poor conditions to follow later in the year.

As we approach late November to December, you will see the dormant grass begin to show its brown color, but playing conditions will still be very good. Finally, in mid-December the rains will begin to impact playing conditions and there will be some muddy spots. So, continuing through the season, January and February will be the worst months to play the course. Doesn't that make more sense than ruining late September through early November with the disruption of an overseed grow-in? The last few years I've been left to wonder who we are doing this seeding for, because very few people play during the fog and rain of January and February.

Once March arrives temperatures will slowly begin to climb. The bermuda will start turning green in mid-late March, but will not do much growing for another month. This time of year is the question mark and really depends on Mother Nature. If we get a few warm days in a row, the bermuda may be jump started.

This spring I played multiple courses that used to overseed, but no longer do including Woodbridge GCC and Yolo Fliers GC. I was jealous of how great their fairways looked and how well they played. When warm temperatures arrive at an overseeded club, the water gets turned on a little earlier. An overseed really beats up the bermuda, so you have to maintain the ryegrass until the mercury really gets going. Then the painful process of transition begins and the goal is to thin the rye, stimulate the bermuda, keep the course dry, and prevent bare spots. GOOD LUCK!! It is not going to happen in Stockton because this city is in the San Joaquin Valley of California, not the desert of Arizona. Our climate does not support the type of overseed we have attempted.

In a past post about lake buffer edges, I mentioned that I get to make unpopular decisions as part of my job. While I did not make the final call on this matter, I fully support the decision to suspend the overseed program. I am sure that this is an unpopular decision with many members and I want to answer any and all of your questions regarding the impact on the course. Please do not hesitate to contact me by email.

I will be posting more updates on the overseeding debate in the future and throughout the fall, winter, and spring seasons as the bermuda and the course changes with the temperatures. So check back for those updates and if this is your first visit to the Turf Page, please take the time to look back at previous information.