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Overseeding? What is that?

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(August 15, 2008) We are getting closer and closer to the time of year when Myrtle Beach golf courses begin to overseed. But what exactly is overseeding? It is the process by which a superintendent will plant a cool season grass that can withstand cooler weather on top of a warm season grass before it goes into dormancy. This, in turn will keep the course green. But, is overseeding even necessary? Why do courses do this?

To contrary belief, overseeding is not absolutely necessary. If a course superintendent decides not to overseed, his course will turn brown as the Bermuda grass goes dormant. You can still play golf on dormant grass. But, to golfers, green is the most beautiful color, except for posting a red number in the last box of his scorecard. Course superintendents know that to keep a good amount of play on their courses throughout the late fall, winter and early spring, they need the courses to look as if they were in the height of the spring, with green grass all around. Before the Bermuda grass goes dormant, the superintendent will spread a cool weather grass-seed on all or most of the course.

Usually it is the fairways and tees that get overseeded, but some greens will as well. This cool season grass is usually rye. The seed needs to be irrigated for an extended period of time in order for the seed to germinate. This may cause some frustrations for the golfers that are playing during this time. When the course is wet, carts are not allowed on the fairway. It's just like when it rains, the carts will tear up the golf course and then the superintendent has bigger problems. So, "cart path only" is a familiar slogan this time of year.

As stated previously, most courses will overseed. Some courses will have a set schedule as to when they will overseed and other courses let the superintendent play it by ear and do it when he feels the weather is at its best. The superintendent that has the luxury of making his own decisions is a weather watcher. He loves a week of rain just after they overseed the course, because, well, it's free water. Even if there is no rain in the foreseeable future, he still has to overseed at some point. The overseeding practice in Myrtle Beach usually runs from late September to early November. This obviously is the time where the Bermuda grass is in the early beginnings of going dormant.

You will notice at some courses that a superintendent has only overseeded the fairways and not the rough. He will do this for six reasons. First, it is less seed that he has to put down. Second, if the rough is not overseeded, it does not have to be watered near as much as the fairway. And third, this will give the course definition throughout the winter with the fairways being bright green and the rough being brown. This is a common practice if the late summer has been pretty dry. Fourth, there will be no spring transition frustrations in the rough as sometimes the Bermuda grass may have some trouble beating out the rye grass in the spring. Fifth, weeds are easier to take care of out of a dormant Bermuda than a full and lush rye grass. Sixth, the course will save quite a bundle on maintenance costs. Less seed, less water, less fertilizer, less man hours, and less wear on maintenance equipment. All of these things cost money, and on a golf course that covers 40 acres, that's a lot of money saved.

So, there you have it. Golf facilities and their superintendents will do what it takes to keep their course playable and green year round. Let's face it, all golfers want to get out and play when the weather is decent, and courses around the nation know that in order to get that golfer to come to their course, they must be appealing to the eye and playable for the game.




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