There's been a big change to TPC Sawgrass for the move of the Players Championship from May to March, and it involves overseeding. But what does that mean?
Jeff Plotts, who has been the Director of Golf Course Operations at TPC Sawgrass for almost four years, says that one of the biggest challenges about staging this year's tournament was its move from May to March for the first time since 2006.
To get the course ready, the greenstaff began a process named 'overseeding' back in Autumn, in order to make the grass greener and be able to control the surface better than the typical Bermuda grass they previously had in place.
What that means, is the staff have spent the last few months changing the grass-type at TPC Sawgrass for the first time in 14 years. To achieve this, a mixture of three types of Rye grass (which grow in cold conditions) were planted on top of the Bermuda grass (which won't grow over winter). As Plotts explains below, it allows the greenkeepers to better condition and control the grass, which will also be more lush and green than Bermuda would have been at this time of year.
"The biggest thing for us, with The Players moving forward in the Tour schedule by a couple of months, has been getting the aesthetics to the level we want," says Plotts.
"Several months ahead of the event, we began an overseeding program to green up the golf course. The Bermuda grass we previously had in place is not active in the first few months of the year, but we needed growth in order to control the playing surfaces and ensure good playability. Not only that, divots and ball marks recover quicker, and the rye grass handles foot traffic better than Bermuda grass on its own.
"Overseeding sounds like a simple process. But it’s not quite as easy as throwing down seeds and watering. There’s a specific process for growing and watering the different areas of the golf course.
"It’s not an exact science, though, and you’re always somewhat reliant on the weather conditions. It’s a game of patience. It’s also the first time anybody here had been involved in such a large-scale over-seeding program so it has also been a great learning experience for the whole green-keeping and agronomy teams.
According to TPC Sawgrass Head Professional Matt Borocz, it's a process they began perfecting two years ago before they began the large-scale overseeding.
“Preparation for The Players is usually a year-round program, but this year with the date change from May to March, it’s been a faster turnaround," Borocz said.
"From a preparation standpoint, we have had a couple of years to get ready for the date change. Our agronomy team, in particular, started working on the golf course two years ago, testing the overseeding process and getting new processes in place."
Below, this video from the PGA Tour depicts the process of overseeding over the past few months.