Overseeding: The Greening Of Arizona's Golf Courses

By Rebecca Larsen, Contributor

PHOENIX, AZ - October is a great month for golf in Arizona: The temperatures cool off to at least the 90s and sometimes the 80s during the day; the sticky monsoon storms are over; the snowbirds have yet to hit the links and slow down the pace of play.

The only problem? It's overseeding season, and you often have to make a few calls to find a tee time at a place you really want to play. As frequent visitors to Arizona know, most courses here are planted with Bermuda grass that goes yellow and dormant in winter. You can play on this dormant straw, but to keep golfers happier, courses throughout the Valley of the Sun seed on top of the Bermuda with rye grass during the fall so that the fairways stay green all winter.

"As soon as the temperatures cool down at night, we start overseeding," says A.J. Hrushka, an assistant golf pro at Dove Valley Ranch in Cave Creek.

The process requires courses to stay closed for two or three weeks. First the Bermuda is shaved down to almost nothing and seeded with rye. Then the course is heavily watered so the rye seed takes root. "Once the water comes on, it stays on for two weeks," Hrushka said.

That doesn't mean you can't play golf at all in the Phoenix area. Every course picks a different time to replant. Dove Valley Ranch, because it's at a slightly higher elevation, can start reseeding earlier, Hrushka said. Overseeding started there Sept. 23 and ends Oct. 10.

Other sample closures: Anthem Country Club is closed from Oct. 7 to 28; Estrella Mountain Ranch is closed from Oct. 7 to 29; Sanctuary at Westworld is closed from Oct. 14 to 25; and Sunridge Canyon is closed until Oct. 11.

However, clubs with more than 18 holes, like the Phoenician Resort, Camelback, McCormick Ranch, Ocotillo, Troon North, Wildfire and Grayhawk alternate their overseeding. The Stadium Course at the Tournament Players Club didn't close until the TPC Desert Course reopened after overseeding.

At Kierland Golf Club in Scottsdale, for example, there are three separate nines - the Mesquite, the Ironwood and the Acacia - each with different dates for overseeding. "It's all going to be done by Nov. 3," said the head golf pro Mike Champagne. That's just in time for the opening of the new Westin Kierland Resort, next door to the golf course. Champagne said bookings for the hotel are 45 percent full for opening week.

Although it may be a little harder to find a place to play during overseeding, keep in mind that if you can time it right, you might find a course that will let you on at summer rates. Traditionally, green fees go up at a course as soon as overseeding ends.

Phoenix Open Close to Signing Deal

The Phoenix Open, struggling to find a sponsor for the past few months, is close to signing a contract that would make Xerox one of three presenting sponsors for the tournament.

Xerox used to be the sole title sponsor for the tournament but pulled out after this year's Open after the firm's contract expired. Tournament chairman Peter Kuehner said about Xerox, "We're close, but we don't have a decision yet. The proposal is on their desk; we're waiting for them to sign."

Kuehner said the tournament is also talking to other businesses about the other two presenting spots, each of which would cost about $1.75 million for a one-year commitment. "The Xerox agreement is open ended. So if we get a full title sponsor they would pull out," he said.

A full sponsorship would cost $6 million a year; generally, these deals are for three years at a time. But whatever happens, Kuehner said, "There will be a tournament from Jan. 20 to 26."

The tournament, held at the Tournament Players Club Stadium Course in Scottsdale, is one of the best-attended PGA tournaments on the circuit. The organizers of the tournament are the Thunderbirds, a non-profit service group.

Longbow reopening delayed

There is some sad news for fans of the Longbow Golf Club in Mesa, the Ken Kavanaugh-designed course that closed down for remodeling during the summer.

The problem is that the course remodeling is finished, according to Robert M. McNichols of Daedalus Real Estate Advisors and Dover Associates, the firm that owns the course, but some development work on a business complex near the course is not.

In fact, there's no road to get golfers to the course right now, and so the golf club will not reopen until March 30, almost the end of the tourist season. "Our plans were delayed by the city of Mesa," said McNichols.

The 18-hole course was purchased in 2001 by Dover Associates of Phoenix, which also bought 149 acres nearby with the intentions of creating the Longbow Business Park and Golf Club.

Dover bought the course from the Boeing Co. which operates the AH-64 Apache Longbow helicopter assembly plant across the street from the course. The course is a par 70 with 6,778 yards from the back tees and 5,554 yards from the forward.

A number of holes at Longbow were moved and reconfigured by Ken Kavanaugh of Tucson, the original designer of the course, which opened in 1997. The golf club actually grew in area - going from 135 acres to 150 acres. The redesign is also supposed to increase turf areas, create wider fairways and reduce forced carries.

"Delaying the reopening is the best possible decision for the long term," McNichols said, "because in the short term, there are less than ideal conditions out there right now due to the construction going on."

Southern Dunes Set to Open

Southern Dunes, believed to be Arizona's first men-only golf course, is set to open on Nov. 15 near the town of Maricopa, 30 miles south of Phoenix off Highway 238, according to Brian Curley of Schmidt-Curley Golf Architecture in Scottsdale.

The par-72 course, designed by PGA player Fred Couples, with the help of Schmidt-Curley, has the tips set at about 7,400 yards. The club is expected to have 400-500 members, none of them women. Memberships are not sold out yet.

Schmidt-Curley has worked before with Couples and Nick Faldo on the design of the Faldo course at Wildfire, a public daily fee course which opened last winter in Phoenix.

There are different levels of membership at Southern Dunes starting at $25,000 with monthly dues of $300. You can also buy an $80,000 lifetime membership with no dues. It's a full-equity membership, Curley said. You get all your money back when you leave. For more information, call 480-367-8949.

Rebecca Larsen is a Senior Writer with TravelGolf.com. Comment on this story on our reader feedback page.

Rebecca LarsenRebecca Larsen, Contributor

Rebecca Larsen is a former features and assistant features editor for the Marin Independent Journal, a medium-sized daily paper located north of San Francisco. She has also worked for the Milwaukee Journal and for a Chicago public relations firm. She has a bachelor's in journalism from Northwestern University and a master's from the University of California at Berkeley.

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