Golf Course Maintenance 101: Ball Marks, Divots & Other Maintenance Issues

This is the forth post in a multi-post series on golf course maintenance from an interview with Brandon Evans, General Manager & PGA Certified Golf Professional at Village Greens of Woodridge (and self-imposed “Director of Fun and Entertainment”).

In this post, we talk about ball marks, divots, and other golf course maintence issues.

CGN: Are there any other things you’d like to say in regards to what players can do (beginners and non-beginners alike) to help keep the course in good shape? What are some things players do that you [as a course manager] really appreciate? I’d imagine replacing divots or filling them in with divot mix is a major one.

BE: Most courses are ‘judged’ by golfers on the condition of the greens more heavily than other areas. If left unrepaired, a ball mark could take 2-4 weeks to resolve the damage on it’s own. In my experience, 1 out of 5 golfers repairs their ball marks. Therefore, I ask each of our regulars to try to fix 4-5 ball marks on each green when they play… I tell them the ‘Putting Gods’ will be watching and be more kind to those who fix ball marks. If a golfer only did one thing, replacing ball marks would be on the top of the list. The course benefits, but the golfers benefit more.

There are differing opinions on replacing divots. When you take a divot, you haven’t killed the grass… the roots will regenerate the foliage. Replacing a divot is beneficial in leveling the surface and may prevent someone else from having to play from a hole, but a ‘dead’ divot will sometime impede the new growth from the roots (divots don’t regenerate from the ground down). That’s why some courses offer sand or divot mix… it levels the surface and allows the new shoots to come through.

Divot mix is tricky, and some courses have stopped using it. Some courses have bent grass tees, blue grass fairways, and blue/rye roughs. When divot mix is filled in a portable container, it may contain blue grass, but an unknowing golfer may take a divot on the bent grass tee, fill it with blue grass divot mix, and think they did good. Instead, they just introduced an undesirable grass into an area it doesn’t belong. If there is divot mix on a par 3 tee box, using it is greatly appreciated, as the course will have mixed the right blend.

The other often overlooked maintenance issue most amatuers aren’t aware of… in a greenside bunker, the highest part is often closest to the green. After hitting a shot, golfers often try to climb out of the bunker at the highest point, closest to the green, often damaging the edge of the bunker along the way. Entering and exiting a bunker at its lowest point is not only more beneficial to the course, but more comfortable for the golfer (even though it may require a bit more raking).