Friday, September 23, 2011

Aerification time AGAIN?!!

This is the time of year golfers everywhere are asking, "WHYYYYYYY!? I get this questions each fall as the greens always seem to be in prime condition and then we break out the dreaded aerifiers to begin punching holes in the most sacred areas of the golf course. This is a practice that is not a very fun period for staff either as it means getting the course ready starting two weeks before aerification day by preparing equimpment and ordering supplies (sand, seed, fertilizer, and perhaps wetting agents), making a few practice runs on practice areas, fertilizing the greens to boost nutirition levels so that healing time is reduced, and adjusting schedules for staff.

This is not a task that is taken lightly given that the greens are our most precious asset outside of our STAFF! I must emphasize how important these men and women are to every golfers experience on every golf course around the world. Our crews perform some of the most difficult tasks and work some of the worst hours with little to no recognition and maybe some complaining from golfers about the pin on hole #12. The staff that I have is amazing and to think that all of the tasks we accomplish is done with 6 full time staff (that includes our Equipment Managers) and a few interns at each course only proves how lucky I am to be where I am. We have staff members that could be or have been head supers at a course of their own, but enjoy the life and luxuries that we are blessed to have here on the Central Coast.

The day of aerification starts around 3:30 when the aerifier first breaks ground on our putting green. That's right, we start in the dark using lights and our own wit and senses as this process starts. It is somewhat of an eerie situation when you are all alone on an aerifier in the dark of night when you can not see beyond the lights of your rig and all you hear is the noise of the equipment. You never really know what is lurking about in the openness of the golf course.

We usually punch 3-4 greens before the rest of the staff begins the process of cleaning up cores, dropping sand, and brooming the sand into the holes. This fall we will not be pulling cores as we use this time of year to attempt to push our roots deep by using a solid deep time aerification approach. This process fractures and heaves the soil beneath the turf, thus loosening the soil particles allowing better flow of water, nutirents, and also better penetration of roots. Consequently, this process also takes less time to healas the amount of damage is lessened. This helps us to keep more golfers on the courses and maintain revenue streams.

The day ends near dark and the staff is tired and ready for some nourishment and rest of their own once all of the equipment is cleaned up and properly stored. But they will be back tomorrow to help push the sand around a bit more and water it in using hoses and irrigation. We keep the mowers off for the first day to help not pick up any sand with the equipment, which helps reduce the loss of resources and also reduce the wear and tear on cutting units. Mechanics hate sand and I wonder how they ever enjoy our beaches around here?

We will then begin mowing with a set of reels we call Sand Sharks. These reels are used for a 2-3 days until the clippings in our catch baskets are pretty free of sand particles. Again mechanics HATE sand. After that period we send out a brand new set of reels and gradually work the height of cut back down to our traditional 0.130. The first day with this mower usually requires a double cut to smooth out the surface and stand up the lazy Poa Annua leaf blades. A week or after the initial aerification we will come back with another round of fertilizer to help push the roots of the mature turf and new seedlings deep within our soil profile so that they will handle the wear of play during the year. We do go through this process again in the spring by pulling cores, but the fall allows for the best root growth as the temperatures are typically moderate and stress levels are low. Those elements coupled with the fact that cool season turf grows optimally during the fall and spring, fall deep tining, at least in my mind produces the most opportunity for deep healthy root development.

All of this allows our turf to be in the best possible condition this same time period next year and the year after that too. I understand as a golfer this process is not well appreciated from a playability stand point; but if we did not aerify at all the health and playability may decline during the summer months when high use compacts the soils. With compacted soils, water penetration is reduced, air pore space is reduced, and nutrient absorption is also reduced. All of these factors work against the health of the plant and can result in dead turf and nobody wants that in the middle of the summer!

Morro Bay was aerified a week ago and the greens will be back to normal this weekend. Dairy Creek is scheduled for aerification October 4th. We apologize for the inconvenience and we will take all of the "atta boys" you are willing to give next spring and summer when the greens are healthy, smooth, and enjoyable. Thanks for your patronage and check out the video below from Pace Turf for more information regarding aerification.

"Reverse every natural instinct and do the opposite of what you are inclined to do, and you will probably come very close to having a perfect golf swing."
~Ben Hogan

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