Each year during the month of September and early October, golf courses in St. George and Mesquite go through a transformation process called overseeding. Overseeding is unique to the Southwest desert and is essential for providing great course conditions during the winter months. During this time in the fall, courses will generally close for a period of three to four weeks and typically have cart path restrictions after the courses reopen. Courses choose this time due to the change of temperatures. Overseeding is critical to a golf course’s condition. If the process is done incorrectly or thwarted by monsoon weather, a course will appear to have areas of dirt instead of grass during the winter months. In the past, there have been instances when some courses even released their superintendents from his or her position when overseeding was not successful.
The process of overseeding begins in the summer months to promote the health of warm-weather grass, which is typically Bermuda. Having a consistent, healthy Bermuda grass enables any course to provide the best type of base to overseed. Bermuda grass can be described best as a grass that grows horizontally more than vertically. This grass can thrive in high temperatures with any type of water. If there are bare growth spots in the Bermuda grass, it is important to spot-sod these areas early enough in the summer to enable them to grow in properly before overseed. Just about the time when Bermuda is thriving in August and early September, prep work for overseeding begins.
Usually about a week before laying seed, it is important to burn out the Bermuda grass. When laying the winter seed, it’s desirable that the Bermuda grass is less apparent so that it won’t overrun the potential growth of the new winter rye grass seed when it is trying to pop. To kill the Bermuda growth before overseed, the superintendent will begin to lower mower heights to “scalp” the Bermuda. Watering will also be considerably less frequent.
The overseed process itself requires a lot of man hours and costs. Here is just a sampling of what a typical course will endure during this two- to three-week process:
—Seed generally costs between $1.05 and $1.18 per pound depending upon shortages and demand
—About 600 to 800 pounds of seed per acre are used
—Approximately 35,000 pounds of seed per course are used
—Each course will need 750 to 900 man hours during overseed
The “X” factor in this entire process is something that can never be predicted or controlled: weather. Ideal weather conditions for a healthy overseed are temperatures reaching 85 degrees during daytime with 65-degree overnight temperatures. A slight breeze (five to 10 mph) is essential to minimize the chance of incurring a potential disease, but too much wind will blow seed or water into unnecessary places on a golf course. A light rain is beneficial during the daytime, but monsoon rains could wash away seed or cause mudslides that would suffocate the growing winter grass. These are general guidelines, but it’s understood that Mother Nature has ultimate control over the success of an overseed.