Monday, May 6, 2013

Why aerify putting greens or turf in general?

"Why in the world do you poke holes in the greens and throw down all of that sand?"  This is a common question for golf courses as golfers dislike the interruption.  I can honestly say that if we didn't need to we wouldn't becuase it is a long arduous process for staff that starts months before the date arrives.  This is becuase we have to order all of the materials, create work schedules, check equipment, and test drive everything to help curtail any breakdowns or mishaps.

This question is important to ask as many courses in our area have skipped aerification for a number of reasons.  Potential reasons include: revenue, revenue, and revenue.  After aerification is finished golfers tend to stay away until the turf has healed and conditions are back to normal, so its not easy on the financial statements as the course must be maintained and there are fixed costs.  It is true that some courses have a greens profile that has been constructed correctly, have a quality water source, and the turf has been managed properly so that core aerification is not needed.  Instead these courses are able to soley use vertical mowing (verti-cutting), venting with spikers, or using solid tines.

For the rest of us core aeration is a need and sometimes multiple times throughout the year.  We use reclaimed water at Morro Bay and Dairy Creek golf courses and this gray-salty water causes a number of issues with soil quality and water infiltration rates.  Without a "clean" water source to deeply water the greens in an effort to flush out the salts our turf struggles to maintain a vigor that keeps disease and decline at bay.

The aspect of maintaining greens is management.  See the pictures below that were taken from our 80+ year old greens at Morro Bay.  The greens here were constructed using a "push up" method.  This means the greens were built by pushing up the surrounding soil.  Over the years these greens have developed a sequence of layering seen in the photos that prevent water from percolating through the soil.  Instead the water gets trapped in these layers like a sponge and subsequently the roots will grow in this area as well.  These layers lead to shallow rooting turf that has an increased potential for disease or drought stress since these layers of thatch dry out quickly.

By aerifying these areas it creates channels for water, nutrients, and gases (oxygen and CO2) to move throughout the soil profile, thus promoting deeper more healthy turf surfaces.  I have included a short video created (USGA aerification video) by the USGA to help explain this process visually.  Please contact me if you have any questions.

Until next time, get out and play some golf!

The view from inside the golf hole in which you can see about 4" of layering that has occured over the years.  I remember a turf class that I took in college that showed this picture and it was accompanied by, "this is not what you want."

Another view of the layers.  In this photo you can see some old aerification holes that have since been buried.

This piciture is of the removed turf and you can see how beneficial the deep tine aerifying has been as you can see the roots following those channels and betting a penetration of nearly 6-8 inches.  Aerification does work!

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