What Does Overseeding Mean?

Autumn, one of the best times of the year, in fact, it might be my favorite time of the year. Pumpkin patches, hot cocoa, football season and picturesque landscapes. For those of us in the warmer climates we can add another: the emerald green, perfectly checkered, overseeded golf course. Well, we were off to such a nice start, football, hot cocoa, OVERSEEDING?! Maybe I should have left out that one word. For golfers in the southwest, overseeding has become synonymous with a few things: golf course closures, moist conditions and cart path only. I want to provide you with the reasoning behind those events (an inside perspective) and why they are a necessary evil.

Wouldn’t the world be a better place without overseeding? Why do we even have to do it in the first place?! As far as I am concerned you have 3 options: great golf, horrible golf, or no golf. Overseeding offers us the first option. In some parts of the world where it snows you have the option of no golf (who wants to be in a world without golf?!). Here in the warmer climates, we have more tolerable weather, however, the turf grass varieties that are native to these regions cannot withstand the cooler temperatures. The native grasses will still go dormant (hibernate for us mammals) during the winter. If unoverseeded this grass will offer a winter golfing surface that visually unappealing (dead appearance) but also is coarse, frayed, inconsistent and challenging to play.

[Enter overseeding]. If this was a melodrama this is where to booing would begin. This time of year superintendents close golf courses for a period of 2.5 weeks or longer in order to transition the course from a warm turf variety to a winter turf variety. Here is world’s shortest crash course in overseeding. In order for the winter variety grass seedlings to germinate, root, and then develop properly the superintendent must provide the correct temperature, soil to seed contact, consistency of moisture and limit external stresses. The dates of overseeding are selected for temperature and climate considerations. Day 1-4 of overseeding consist of thinning the grass and removing the canopy material presently on the golf course to prepare the seed bed. Days 5-7 are devoted to seeding the course. This requires amounts of almost 800# of seed per acre to be placed precisely through the golf course. Days 7 onward are dedicated to watering the seedlings in amounts that are sufficient to keep the seed and canopy wet, but not wash the seed out of place. Upon completion of “overseeding” a majority of the seed will have been germinated, however is only 5 to 7 days old. It is still weak, fragile, and unable to handle normal turf grass stresses.

[Enter cart path only]. Another villain! How could they! With the reopening of the facility golfers will experience the dreaded cart path only sign. From a superintendents perspective cart traffic is a necessary evil, however, it is the #1 controllable detriment to turf grass. Cart traffic only increases wear and injury to turf grass. In such a pivotal time in a grasses development we cannot allow the damage to young seeding. And damage that occurs post overseeding will negatively affect the quality of the surface for several months. Any creature that is damaged during development never reaches its full potential, the same is true for grass. As operators we want to present our guests with the finest conditions year round. Sometimes that requires some concessions like overseeding and cart path only to offer the best conditions.

In essence, overseeding is a large example of patience leading towards a goal. The amount of patience displayed reflects on the final product. I always look at it this way. My girlfriend is a great cook. One of her favorite dishes to make is No-Peek Chicken. It involves combining all the correct ingredients into a particular recipe and then covering it with foil and placing it in the oven. The aroma it produces urge you to open the oven and “peek” under the foil. If you peek, you spoil the product and it does not allow the meal to fully reach its potential. Overseeding is the same way. There is a recipe for creating that emerald green, checkered golf course. It involves an intricate maintenance process, proper water, time, and patience. If we peek and try to open the course too soon or release carts off the path the final product will be compromised. For me: I’ve tasted both. I am not going to peek.