When spring is in the air, outdoor allergies are usually not too far behind. Allergies can be aggravated anywhere grass, trees, flowers and plants are in full bloom and spreading pollen. For golfers who suffer from seasonal allergies, a golf course can contain a host of triggers.

Golf course superintendents can do their part to reduce potential allergens on their course. They can also keep golfers informed about conditions so that they can choose tee times that present a lower risk for allergies.

Outdoor allergy triggers

People who suffer from allergies need to know what triggers can stimulate allergy attacks. Exposure to these specific triggers can cause watery and itchy eyes, skin rashes, sneezing, coughing and a host of other symptoms.

Common sources of allergens include:

  • Pollen
  • Mold
  • Insects
  • Animals
  • Food

These allergy triggers pose a greater risk in warm weather months. Each one can grow into a major problem on a golf course without taking the necessary steps to combat these triggers. Take time to educate course staff on the dangers of these allergens and work together to eliminate them.

Eliminating allergens

As a golf course superintendent, one of your key concerns is to keep the course in the sort of condition that makes it inviting to golfers who play there. Realizing such a goal starts with reducing or eliminating potential allergens on or around the golf course.

Pollen are tiny particles released by trees, grasses, flowers and plants during the growing season. You cannot expect to eliminate pollen entirely from your course, but you can take steps to reduce the amount of pollen exposure golfers receive.

Regular landscaping will stir up existing pollen, so schedule those duties for non-peak hours so fewer people are exposed to potential allergens. Water the course thoroughly after mowing grass or trimming trees and shrubs to help settle the pollen. Scour for debris and remove it from the course after landscaping is finished.

For golfers, post daily pollen counts in the clubhouse and on the course website. Identify which times the pollen count will be highest so golfers can plan a tee time during a window when pollen counts will be lower. Keep golfers up-to-date on weather conditions as well. Windy days, for example, can wreak major havoc on allergies. Provide a wind report so they can know when it is safe to spend time on the course.

Mold can accumulate in spaces where there is excess moisture that can’t escape. It isn’t just a potential source for allergens, but also a catalyst for spreading colds and other respiratory diseases. Even a small amount of mold spores pose a health risk.

Check walls, floors and ceilings regularly in the clubhouse or other areas frequented by golfers. Repair any cracks or holes allowing moisture to seep in. Fix leaky fixtures or clogged drains that could also cause moisture accumulation. Make sure all areas on the course have proper drainage. Remove any debris that could clog up drains and create excessively swampy conditions.

Insects can be a source of allergic reactions if they bite a human. Depending on where your course is located, fire ants, mosquitoes, spiders, bees and wasps can pose a potential hazard to golfers. These insects release powerful venom in their victims and can cause serious allergic reactions — sometimes requiring hospitalization.

Pesticides can be helpful tools in reducing the numbers of these insects. Still, caution should be used in employing pesticides. Some contain chemicals that will cause harmful side effects if inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Spray for pests during off-peak hours and post warning signs for golfers to avoid certain areas where pesticide has been recently applied.

Read more here about the do’s and don’t of pesticide safety.

An ounce of prevention

Allergies sometimes seem like an inescapable rite of passage for people who suffer from them each year. It can sap the fun out of golfing if you end up spending more time sneezing than you do putting. Careful planning by a course superintendent can make allergies less of a concern for golf course patrons during allergy season.


Photo by John C. Fech, originally from Control Center: Good ‘Housekeeping,’ November 2014.