Starting to plan your golf trip for September/October and notice many of the courses will be closed for Overseed? You show up to a course you have been thinking about for months and say to yourself, “What the heck is going on out here? Are they trying to ruin my golf trip to Las Vegas?” Well first of all we need to look at the process as a whole and then you will see that what is being done is a necessary evil and you may decide for next time to plan around the golf course overseed schedule for Las Vegas. The same goes for aerification; once you realize what it is actually doing for the course/greens, you may not be that upset next time you see scheduled maintenance or end up playing on slightly bumpy greens. Let’s face it, golfers want green grass year around and tour like PGA quality when they are on the links, but that is unrealistic year around. Las Vegas as we all know cannot survive without lush, green conditions all year as to why we must endure these processes.
Let’s start out by talking about overseeding. Overseeding is done when a golf course’s main grass (generally Bermuda) in the fairways, tee boxes, and greens is about to go into its dormant stage. When Bermuda is dormant, it is brown and unsightly which generally takes place when the temperature drops below 60 degrees. That is why September/October is the time every year Las Vegas courses go through this process. The superintendent will actually slow or stop watering the course all together generally about a week or two in advance to speed up the dormant process, this is called scalping. The course will actually look dry and desolate as if it hasn’t been watered in months even only after a couple days due to the 105 temperatures with virtually no humidity.We actually recommend not playing a course a week before its closure date due to these pre-overseeding conditions. The process by which overseeding is carried through, is when the golf course superintendent sees that the Bermuda grass is about to go dormant, he will close the course and begin the overseeding process by placing a huge amount of seed onto the course. This is usually Rye grass which does well in cooler weather. In order to get the seed to take, he must water the course enough for the seed to germinate. Once the seed has germinated and grown strong into the ground he will still remain heavily watering the course just to make sure the seed takes. If not, the course would not be able to reopen on its scheduled date and in turn could potentially lose thousands of dollars and hundreds customers and he may be looking for new employment. Once the course reopens it will be on strict cart path only restrictions for 2-6 weeks depending on how the course is taking to the new seed. Most courses will not allow handicap flags during this time, so keep that in mind if you must drive on the grass or near the greens due to a physical impairment. Cart path only means just that, you can only drive on the cart path and not on the grass. It can make your day quite difficult if your find yourself hitting it to the opposite side of the cart path on every hole. So to make your day a little easier and to conserve some energy, if the path is on the left hand side of the fairway, hit your shot in that general direction to keep yourself from having to walk 50-100 yards for every shot. Let your opponent hit a huge slice with a left hand cart path so he gets tired quicker and you can win all of the bets.
It is unfortunate that most courses in Las Vegas are not open during late August through early October, but as we all know golfers only want to play on lush green grass during their vacation. So the courses either spend the extra money and make their courses green again and visually appealing or let them sit dormant and brown and no one will play their courses through February of the following year; then they could stand to lose in the millions. The benefits of overseeding include better playing conditions in the winter, a more beautiful golf course during those months and more income for the daily-fee courses. Then there is the question of whether or not to overseed and it is often very controversial, because that of the lost revenue if they decide not to overseed and the cost associated with the actual process. We have seen year after year when a course decides not to overseed, they end up kicking themselves in the you know what wishing they did as no one wants to play on a brown golf course; no matter how low the price is. It is unfortunate, but true…golfers of today are spoiled. I think they quickly forget how golf used to be played in the beginning. Take St. Andrews for instance, without the history that it holds, golfers of today would not want to pay $100 to play a course in that condition. We all watch golf on TV and see the pure green grass and expect every round we have to be on similar playing conditions which is unrealistic but true. There are on the other hand a hand-full of courses in Las Vegas that run a seed year around that do not have to overseed or may have no water restrictions due to their agreement with the state. They will go through an arduous aerification process or an inter-seed that does not take as long to recuperate and they will only have to close for a couple days. So ask a VIPGS representative which courses we recommend that will not be affected by the overseed process during your dates.
Now let’s talk about aerification. It is another necessary evil that all courses must do. Let’s start by looking at what goes into producing a high-quality green which everyone expects these days out of a destination like Las Vegas. In order for grass to grow and root at such a short cut (3/16 of an inch or less), it must have a deep, strong-rooted system. Good roots need oxygen. In quality soils, the roots get oxygen from tiny pockets of air trapped between soil and sand particles. All of that foot traffic each and every day tends to compact the soil directly underneath the green, particularly when the soil contains a lot of clay. During compaction, the tiny air pockets on which the roots depend on are crushed, and the roots are left basically suffocating. Without oxygen, the grass plants become weaker and will eventually wither and die. Of the three objectives of aerification, the most important is relieving soil compaction, which lets the roots breath.
Aerification also provides a method to improve the soil mixture around the highest part of a green’s roots and reduces or prevents the accumulation of excess thatch. Thatch is a layer of living and dead organic matter that occurs between the green matter and the soil surface. Excessive thatch (over 1/2 inch thick) creates a favorable environment for pests and disease, an unfavorable growing environment for grass roots, and can interfere with some green care practices. It can actually starve the lawn from receiving fertilizer, water, and other necessities to ensure plush playing conditions.
Aerification, like overseeding, is more visible in 365-day golf destinations like Las Vegas. When a golf course plans on operating year-round, routine maintenance is bound to affect dozens of rounds but with a constant schedule, golf courses can’t be expected to be perfect every day. Depending on a course’s annual traffic volume, the aerification of greens and fairways occurs two to three times per year.
To aerify, most courses use a machine that punches holes into the ground and removes dirt in a certain pattern. The most common in Las Vegas are hollow tines. These units use a vertical action to remove cores of soil. They force the tines to penetrate or “punch” holes in the soil surface to a depth of 3 to 6 inches. Larger units-often called deep-tine aerators often offer optional cutting or spiking tools that can penetrate to greater depths, usually up to 12 inches. Tines cane range from 1/4” to 1 1/8” in size, with the bigger holes requiring a longer time to heal or cure. The holes can even be separated with more or less holes per square feet, but that may be getting a little too detailed for the purpose of this article. Aside from alleviating compaction, it also opens growing room and increases oxygen to the roots. The aerification process has actually been known to help chase ryegrass out from the overseed during the spring transition back to Bermuda.
So with all of this said, we recommend doing the research or speaking with one our local golf staff members who already know the courses’ maintenance schedules and can ensure your golf trip doesn’t run into any unforeseen maintenance. Some courses won’t actually mention their maintenance process on their websites or when speaking to a golf shop assistant on the phone. Sometimes we feel they do not realize playing their course for free everyday is not the same as someone paying $100+. When a golfer is paying that kind of money to play golf on their vacation or business trip, they would like to know about any kind of maintenance that will be taking place on or before their golf date. We actually recommend not playing a golf course at least a week before a course closes for overseed due to the dry condition nor a week after due to the soggy conditions because of over watering trying to make sure that new seed pops. As far as aerification, we recommend giving most courses 10-14 days for the greens to heal so you can have the best chance at making those birdie and par putts; we know none of you out there are putting for bogie or higher. Long story short, ask us and we will help you make the best decision on where to play during these aggravating, but necessary times.
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