ST. GEORGE — The St. George Golf Division asked for a budget increase of $110,300 at last week’s St. George City Council budget hearing. The reason? The cost of the rye grass seeds, which are used for the tee-tops, fairways and green surrounds, jumped from $1.10 a pound to $2.05 in the past year.
While the City Council voted to approve the Golf Division’s request for more funds, St. George City Golf Director Colby Cowan said that the cost, paired with shipping difficulties, almost convinced him to seek alternatives.
“We were one day away from playing on brown fairways,” Cowan told St. George News.
Luckily, the city’s vendor was able to scrounge up 40 tons of rye seed from various suppliers just in the nick of time, Cowan said. In order to get those cushy green courses, the seeds must be planted in September.
The cost increases are due to a combination of factors, including supply chain issues, pandemic-related blips in production and shipping, as well as scorching temperatures and ongoing drought.
The Pacific Northwest suffered a grueling 1-in-1,000-year heatwave that led to drop-offs in the production of fescue grass. In Manitoba, Minnesota, a combination of high heat and low humidity has led to a 60% drop in production.
Agriculture.com reported that like a family that is one or two emergency expenses away from a financial crisis, seed crops, like rye grass, are one or two bad crop years away from exhaustion. While that may mean opportunity for farmers, it puts golf courses in a bind.
The four golf courses owned and maintained by the city of St. George brought in over $6 million last year, but they also provide community members and tourists countless hours of fun, Cowan said.
“Players come to St. George expecting to play on green courses,” Cowan said. “It’s about playability and the condition of the course.”
“Without that,” he continued, “there is a very real possibility of revenue loss.”
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