Golf courses in Southern Arizona have many unique decisions that most golf courses around the country do not understand. The grass used on golf courses in our hot climate is Bermuda grass that grows very well in temperatures over 90 degrees, and requires less water than other grasses used in cooler climates. However, when temperatures are cold in the winter the Bermuda grass goes into a state of dormancy where it stops growing and turns brown. Golfers, especially tourists, expect to play on lush green grass and they
don’t really like to play on brown golf courses. Arizona golf courses have to decide whether or not to overseed, and weigh the pros and cons of what overseeding will do to revenues and golf course conditions.
The factors in deciding to overseed not only involves the cost of grass seed, fertilizer, increased water usage, equipment usage and fuel, and labor, but also the impact on summer conditions of the grass following an overseeded winter. The grasses used to provide the green color during the winter have a very negative impact on the existing Bermuda grass through competition for light, nutrients and water. When the weather begins to warm up in early summer, the underlying Bermuda grass tries to come out of winter dormancy but runs into this competition and suffers. This period of time is referred to as transition, and results in bare areas in fairways that are very ugly and dramatically impacts play for several weeks to months depending on severity.
A question many golf courses are asking themselves – is the revenues generated during the winter months are going to be high enough to make the costs worth it just to provide a green golf course? The trend around many parts of the country is that the costs are just too high so many regions have stopped overseeding completely. The golfers are happy because courses aren’t closed for two to three weeks during September and October for the overseeding process. The courses are in great condition during the summer since the Bermuda grass did not have any competition during the winter. The drawback to not overseeding is the grass is brown and less attractive. The divots can’t heal because the grass isn’t growing, and the greens tend to become very hard and fast without the growing grass.
The problem is that Arizona caters to tourists and golfers that expect to see the dark green fairways, gorgeous greens and tees that overseeding provides. They aren’t playing in the summer when temperatures are very hot so they don’t really care what the courses look like following overseeding. They will play the golf courses that overseed, so a course that chooses to skip will definitely see a dramatic reduction in winter revenue.
Sometime during the year each course in Arizona will be considered in poor condition. If they chose to overseed then the summer months will suffer, and if they chose to skip overseeding then the winter months will be brown and revenues during peak season will suffer. This is the unique question golf courses in Arizona must face each year.