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Tips For Playing On Dormant Greens

This time of year, especially with the cold weather many courses will let their greens go dormant. Instead of overseeding with cold weather tolerant grass, as some courses will do, many golf courses let the Bermuda, in a sense hibernate. This means there is virtually no grass on the greens as the Bermuda stops growing until the temperatures get back over a certain temperature.

Most of the time when a golf course lets the greens go dormant it is due to budget. It really just means they can not afford to overseed or they do not have the manpower to maintain overseeded conditions. Here in South Louisiana it usually is not that much of an issue as our temperatures rarely stay below 60° for long periods of time. You could see dormant greens on a golf course today then 3 days from now they will be growing back.

Dormant Bermuda leads to a few key things happening to the greens. They not only look dead and brown (like in the video below) but will affect how you play golf.

Here are 3 things to pay attention to so you can make the most of playing golf on dormant greens.

  1. Green Speed - Because there is virtually no grass on the green the speed of putts can be very quick. The greens are basically like putting on smoothed-out, packed clay. This is similar to putting on a marble floor. If you are not careful a putt of 4 feet you think you hit just right can scream past 5 or 6 feet. Depending on the slope of the green you have to pretty much play each putt a few feet short to not hit it past the hole. The same goes for bump and run shots. The ball will roll out further than you may think.

  2. Carry Distances - Dormant greens are softer. Again because there is virtually no grass on the surface, when the ball lands it is like landing in dirt. The higher the shot the more it will dig into the ground and just stop, or perhaps spin back. Even with a long iron and a lower trajectory, the ball will dig into the surface and stop faster than normal. You also have to take this into account when hitting pitch shots as well. Because the ball digs into the surface more on almost every shot you can fly the ball closer to the hole and still stop it quickly.

  3. Pitch & Spike Marks - The softer conditions that cause the ball to stop faster also means the pitch marks will be deeper. As easy as it is to fix a pitch mark many golfers either do not care to or do not see them. On dormant greens it can be more difficult to see smaller pitch marks but the bigger ones are more noticeable. Footprints and spike marks also become more prevelant as well due to the conditions. The later in the day you play the more you may notice. If you want a smooth putt you must walk the line of your putt and look for these. If you see spike marks pat them down with your putter. If you see any pitch marks along your line fix them and look for others not on your line to fix while walking back to your ball.

If you pay attention to all the above conditons you can give yourself a better chance to score lower. This is especially important when putting. If you do not pay attention to marks on the greens and your ball hits one and you miss the putt as a result then you can not be upset. It is no other golfers fault either. It is just an unfortunate part of the game when greens go dormant.

One other tip: When chipping remember the ground is softer underneath. A high lofted club on a pitch shot could have the leading edge dig into the ground causing a fat shot. You either need a lower lofted club and play a low shot or open the face and use the bounce of the club to keep it from digging. However be aware that if you open the face too much the club could slide right under the ball like it would for a bunker shot.

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