Snowbirds probably shouldn't take flight just yet to warm-weather winter destinations in the desert.
Golfer Scott Borgen reached out to Golf Advisor by e-mail, asking if he should plan a golf trip next fall to California's Coachella Valley.
He wrote: "I am planning a golf (trip) to Palm Springs next October and right now I see overseeding and golf courses that are closed down for the month. Will October be a good time for a golf trip?"
Our advice? Wait until December or be prepared to battle inconsistent conditions, cart-path-only rounds and course closures.
Golf destinations in the desert -- like Scottsdale, Ariz., and Palm Springs/La Quinta/Palm Desert, etc. -- typically overseed in early fall, closing anywhere from two weeks to two months. All these courses are gearing up for their high season, which generally runs from January through April.
For those who aren't familiar with the practice, overseeding is typically done on courses with Bermuda grass, which goes dormant in winter. The top layer is scalped off and seeded with ryegrass, which grows in, allowing the course to keep its fairways, tees and greens looking nice and green for sun-starved Northerners. The rough, however, goes dormant giving the course a brown-on-green appearance.
Charlie Swanger, a tour operator at the US Golf Desk, which runs the Web site www.golfpalmspringsgolf.com, estimates that two-thirds of the golf courses in the Coachella Valley close at some point in October. He added that "November isn't much better."
That still doesn't discourage golfers from visiting in the fall, however.
"October is a great month weather-wise so we do have quite a bit of clients that want to visit," Swanger wrote by e-mail. "Since there are so many courses in the area, and many facilities have two courses on site, there are still plenty of options available to play good golf. However, because of supply and demand, the golf rates tend to go up October first. The staff knows there is less competition because of the overseed closures so great courses demand a premium."
Swanger keeps an updated course closure list here.
For example, 36-hole Desert Willow Golf Resort in Palm Desert alternates which of its two courses is closed for overseeding. This year, the Firecliff Course will reopen Oct. 31 after closing Sept. 24. Desert Willow's Mountain View Course will close Nov. 12 and be ready for play Dec. 25.
Closer to SoCal in remote Borrego Springs, Rams Hill Golf Club, a stunning semiprivate Tom Fazio design, will be closed to outside play until Nov. 3. Mike Setchell, the club's director of golf, indicated the maintenance team scalped the fairways, turned the water off and started overseeding at the end of September.
Swanger tries to steer clients toward booking fall trips in September to avoid overseeding issues.
"We try to accommodate all of the clients' requests, but after a bit of research, some clients simply choose a different date on their own," he wrote. "We tend to receive golf vacation requests a few months prior to the anticipated arrival date so I let the golfer know that September is better than October because all of the courses are still open, the summer rates are the lowest of the year and September typically isn't too hot.