Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Golf Course Etiquette

As the summer rains and cultural practices become a distant memory and the Northern golfers descend on the green grass of Copperleaf; it is important to be reminded to follow some basic golf course etiquette routines.

The Practice Tee is one of the first amenities that any golfer at Copperleaf utilizes. The large tee and peninsula of target greens allows all golfers to hone their skills and get accustom to the playability of the Bermuda grass. However, without proper etiquette, the Practice Tee can quickly become an eyesore as it is peppered with divots. With a little education, golfers can utilize the practice tee as desired and help to preserve the turf quality at the same time. Rather than hitting your practice ball in random locations; please utilize a single strip of grass, from front to back. If more shots are required, move over 3 inches and create a new strip. This method of practicing will greatly reduce the amount of top-dressing material needed to repair the divots, increase the recovery time of the turf and provide a superior practice area for all to enjoy.

The image above shows the correct way to take practice divots and damage caused
by 25 divots used in random selection
The scattered divots shown here will take an extended period of time, as well as additional sand, to recover

The use of the 90 degree rule is enforced on a daily basis at Copperleaf. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept; the 90 degree rule simply encourages golfers to drive as far as possible along the cart path before entering onto the turf to play their next shot. This protocol helps to protect the turf quality at the beginning of the rough and fairway. The compaction to the soil created by literally thousands of golf carts traveling over the same area is quite extraordinary and to expect turf grass to thrive under those conditions is unrealistic. Water, nutrients and roots simply cannot penetrate into the soil and unsightly, damaged turf is the result. To help encourage golfers to continue along the cart path, Copperleaf utilizes small green and white stakes to help direct traffic. However, there are still many instances where golfers fail to comply with the 90 degree rule.

In this example, a golfer has driven on the tee slope to enter the fairway rather than utilizing the 90 degree rule

To improve turf quality, it is beneficial for golfers to scatter as they enter and exit the fairways to improve turf health. Try not to follow a golf cart in front of you or the dew patterns of prior golfers. Also, please keep golf carts in the fairway as much as possible in southwest Florida during the winter months. The Bermuda grass rough simply cannot grow and recover in the cool weather from the cart traffic and provide the contrast desired by the different heights of cut.

The damage to the turf is evident in this area after 250 golfers played the course the previous day.

When traveling along the cart paths on your golf cart, it is critical to remember to keep all four wheels on the path at all times. This is particularly important around tee and green complexes. Many golfers deem it necessary to park their carts with two wheels on the turf grass as they walk onto the tees and greens. Once again, this constant compaction of the soil is extremely detrimental to healthy turf grass and ultimately results in an unsightly appearance.

The turf on this tee walk up has been damaged by golf carts constantly putting two wheels onto the turf

 With the amount of play that this course receives, ball marks are always a talking point amongst our golfers. It is critical, for the golfers behind you, that all ball marks be repaired. It is important to remember that on the Bermuda grass greens, found here in southwest Florida, that ball marks be repaired by twisting the turf from the outside in. Once the depression has been filled, use the bottom of your putter to smooth the turf to a level that "you" would be satisfied to putt over.

Ball marks on Bermuda grass greens need to be repaired by twisting the turf from the outside in. Do not lift up!

 Although bunkers are considered a hazard in the rules of golf; it is only fair that all golfers have the chance to play from them in a equal fashion. If you are unfortunate to have to play from a bunker, please rake the sand in a suitable fashion that you do not penalize players behind you. As with ball marks on greens, leave the bunkers in a condition that you would be satisfied to play from. At Copperleaf, the rakes are left in the bunkers with the end of the handle resting on the edge of the turf grass for an easy reach.

Rakes are positioned in the bunker toward the fairway

With help from the golfers of Copperleaf and the hard work of our Maintenance staff, the upcoming golfing season should be an enjoyable one for all. We look forward to seeing you out on the course and practicing good "etiquette".