Friday, October 23, 2009

Cart Traffic and Ettiquette

While I was at our Parks Commission meeting last Thursday evening I was chatting with members of our golf course advisory board about strange things that golfers do or attempt to do while on the golf course. I told them about one of my experiences as a superintendent at a club in which the following commentary took place.

Me: "Excuse me Mr. Smith, but did you happen to notice the signs, ropes, and stakes on hole #14 directing traffic away from some wet areas in the fairway?" (Mr. Smith was now playing the 17th hole)

Mr. Smith: "No, why do you ask?"

Me: "Because they are missing, but I think that I found them." (I went to the rear of Mr. Smith's golf cart and removed about 25 - 30' of ropes and stakes that were being dragged since he played the 14th hole) "By the way, since we received 4" of rain yesterday we are cart paths only until things dry out. "

The moral to this story is don't let yourself become Mr. Smith, by following proper cart rules and etiquette so that our playing surfaces on our courses are more easily maintained without unnecessary inputs or maintenance. Golf carts have been proven to be one of the most destructive elements to turf conditions as they cause compaction, rutting, and tearing which result in thin turf or instances of total turf loss.

Turf is only as healthy as the soil that it is growing within. The three above elements are caused by individuals not realizing the impacts their actions have on soil conditions. Golf Superintendents hate to use stake and ropes as it creates work for staff because the ropes and stakes need to be moved and reset to mow the turf, not to mention that they break up the beauty of the landscape and clutter up the course. That being said there are few barriers that are as economically efficient at controlling cart traffic.

Thoughtfulness about where you are traveling and would go a long way towards preserving the golf course conditions and minimizing maintenance practices. The next time you are playing golf pay attention to the bare areas just off of the cart paths around tees and greens and I am referring to nearly any golf course. These bare areas are often times unlevel and sunken, which means drainage is an issue, but also that golf carts are being parked with two tires on the path and two tires on the turf. It is best to park all 4 tires on the path and any cart needing to get around can drive around your cart. The 90 degree rule is something that all golf courses promote through signage, but is rarely witnessed on the course throughout the day. The 90 degree rule requires that carts leave the paths at a 90 degree angle to their ball and return to the path at a 90 degree angle to the path. Think about your own cart habits ( now be honest) and I would venture to guess that you hit your shot and immediately drive on a straight line to your ball instead of returning to the path. Pairing up in golf carts is also a large help to reduce costs and maintenance because it simply reduces the amount of tires traversing the course. Not only that, but it aides in the social aspect that golf is known for.

Areas surrounding greens and tees are exceptionally susceptible to cart damage. These areas are smaller and more frequented by all players as compared to fairways. How many rounds of golf do you you hit every fairway? How many rounds of golf do you not tee off or hole out on half of the holes? Greens and tees typically have minimal entrance and exit points and thus have areas of specific traffic flows both foot traffic and cart traffic. Green surrounds receive a lot of play and no one likes to play from bare areas or thin lies any where on the course let alone when you have short sided yourself trying to get close to that pin four paces onto the green.

I just want everyone to think about their own specific golf cart driving habits and try to improve upon them. By being more conscious of how your actions effect your playing conditions and the conditions of golfers to follow maybe the golf gods will smile down upon you during your next round. At least it will reduce the number of times the marshall stops your group or the superintendent contemplates roping off every single hole. If it keeps you out of the ponds I my staff is happy!

I opened my email the Friday morning after my parks meeting and received these pictures from golf course personnel from earlier that week.

This is just a reminder that accidents do happen, but if we are all careful and think about what we are doing many mishaps such as this can be avoided. For more information and videos copy and paste this link to the USGA into your browser and scroll to the bottom of the page.

Drive safely and pay attention to cart etiquette!

"Every day you miss playing or practicing is one day longer it takes to be good." - Ben Hogan

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