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After hearing from local golfers, the Joint Advisory Committee on Golf revisited an old controversy at its regular meeting last week. Should the golf courses be overseeded for winter time play?

Golf maintenance director Keith Ihms remembered his introduction to Bella Vista golf courses in April 2014. The courses were in the midst of a "disastrous transition" at the time and he ended overseeding.

Overseeding refers to the practice of adding ryegrass seed to Bermuda fairways in the fall. Bermuda grass becomes dormant in cool weather, so without the cool weather ryegrass, the fairways look brown. In the spring, when the Bermuda grass recovers from dormancy, the ryegrass is either killed or dies out.

In Bella Vista, this was done, according to information provided by board member David Whelchel, a golf course architect, mostly for appearances.

"Resorts in the south and in transition zones regularly do this in order to keep the color, and golfers that pay high greens fees want to play on green grass," he wrote. "You also see this on the southern courses on the PGA tour because they want their courses to look great on television."

The problem, Whelchel explains, is that as the Bermuda grass is recovering from its dormant period, it is competing with the ryegrass for sunlight, water and fertilizer. It keeps the Bermuda grass from recovering completely before it's time to go back into dormancy.

Overseeding is also expensive. Ihms estimated the cost at $35,00 for each course.

Committee member Susan Nuttall pointed out that courses must be closed while the ryegrass is planted and again when the Bermuda grass is struggling out of dormancy. Those closures -- in September and May -- come during the best months for golf.

One sure way to improve the fairways, Ihms said, is to keep carts on the path all winter. Allowing golfers to drive carts on the dormant Bermuda grass damages it.

When carts are restricted to the paths, rounds drop, operation director Darryl Muldoon pointed out.

There has been a schedule where the carts on path rules are rotated among the golf courses, so there are usually opportunities for play without staying on the cart path, Ihms said.

It's especially important to keep the carts off the grass when it's starting to grow in April and May, he added.

Ruth Hatcher, the chairwoman of the board of directors, was observing the meeting and she pointed out that Ihms was hired because he is an expert on golf course maintenance. She supported his decision to stop overseeding.

Eventually, the committee did as well. The committee voted to recommend no overseeding.

The committee also heard a report from Ihms on flood damage. There was limited damage, he said, although there is some debris that maintenance staff is cleaning up. None of the bridges were damaged.

The flood confirmed the findings of the hydrology report, Ihms said. He explained that while there was heavy rain in Bella Vista, the watershed that feeds Little Sugar Creek in Bentonville and Centerton did not receive as much rain, so flooding was minor.

General News on 05/15/2019

Print Headline: Golf committee decides against overseeding greens

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