Golf Course maintenance schedules are typically busy in the off season. With fewer people playing golf it is easier and safer for the grounds crew to get out and complete needed projects that will make the golf course more beautiful and enjoyable next season. It is a good idea to check your course’s maintenance schedule or, if you are visiting a new course, ask before you make your tee time if there are any projects that will affect your play.
With all the mowing, golf car and foot traffic the ground has been compressed and that makes it difficult for water and nutrients to get to the grass root system. To allow water and nutrients to reach the root system the grass is aerated. A machine with tines is rolled over the surface of the grass (tees, greens, fairways & rough), the tines penetrate the soil and as they roll out a plug of soil comes out, leaving a man-made tunnel for water and fertilizer to reach the root system of the grass. The plugs cover the area and are smoothed out with a screen-like catcher. Some plugs are collected and used to fill in low spots on the golf course. This is a labor intensive project that can disrupt the roll of the golf ball until the grass heals. Typically, the turf returns to a normal surface within a week. The cooler temperatures, a steady fall rain and narrow tines all promote faster turf healing.
Other maintenance concerns might be leaf removal and renovations. Golf courses who actively remove leaves will make it easier to play fall golf. Anyone who has played golf in the fall knows the feeling of searching for a golf ball that was right in front of you simply covered by a leaf. Renovation projects such as adding drainage, bunker repair, and removing trees are also completed in the fall. Most often these projects may affect play on one or two holes at a time, but knowing before you go can let you decide if this will be an issue for you or not. Sometimes just knowing vs. being surprised when you are playing can make all the difference. Keeping in mind the project the grounds crew is working on today will make your golf experience more enjoyable in the future. They are working hard for you! So give them a nod or a wave of appreciation as you pass by.
Checking the radar can also help you enjoy fall golf. You know the feeling. You want to play but it’s raining at your favorite course. What to do? Today we have the luxury of instant access to weather radar on line. Simply look at the radar; it may be raining at your course but not at another. Check the weather pattern to see if the rain is moving in or away from where you want to play. It might be a good day to play that course you always wanted to try – especially if it is dry.
In the fall when we start our round in the morning it might be a little cool, but later in the round the warmth of the sun can heat things up quickly. Dress in layers to accommodate the temperature changes. Another consideration may be to pack your golf bag with an extra pair of golf socks, rain gear, gloves and hand warmers. Some golfers have even invested in plastic shields for their golf cars to protect them from cold air and rain. Heaters are also available to keep the riding area warmer. Don’t forget to stop at the snack bar for a cup of coffee or hot chocolate to take along with you.
If you are like me, there is nothing like starting your day with a round of golf. The sunrise, birds in flight, wildlife wondering the fairways all make those early tee times magical. However, in the fall we often experience frost delays. This can be frustrating for some, but consider the damage that is done when we walk on frost covered grass. The frost covers the blade of grass and, when we walk we are actually breaking the grass. This break creates an opening for disease and distresses the grass. Simply waiting for the sun to melt the frost can prevent damage from occurring. Be patient. Often we see the frost melted around the first tee, but trust your golf course superintendent who is checking the entire course. Some areas of the course are heavily shaded and require additional time.
The sun is also setting earlier. If you were used to leaving work a little early to get a round in, you might want to use a few of those vacation days and take a half day off so you can enjoy a round of golf before the season ends. Check the sunset time before you make your tee time. From there back up the amount of time that it normally takes you to play 9 or 18 holes and give yourself a little leeway to finish your round before the sun sets.
Fall golf can be spectacular. In between golf shots try to observe the different shades of the leaves on the trees. This will allow you to not only to soak in the beauty of the golf course but this is kind of a “mental time out” in between shot. Tour caddies spend a great deal of effort helping their player relax in between shots. They know that the time to focus is when you are planning and making the golf shot. Stressing about what happened or what might happen is unproductive! So use the fall leaves to help you relax and enjoy the great game of golf.