As the calendar flips over to March golfers around the country start getting excited. The cold grip of winter is almost gone and hours of play on the golf course is on the horizon. Nothing crushes that excitement more quickly than arriving at a course and discovering the greens have recently been aerified. Aerification is a critical cultural practice that usually takes place in the spring and fall but makes putting on the greens more of an adventure than a test of skill. Today we will look at why golf courses continue to do this and how it ultimately benefits your playing experience the rest of the year.
Benefits of Frequent Aeration
There are myriad ways that aeration improves the overall health of golf turf. One of the main benefits is the reduction of compaction. Constant foot traffic, primarily on putting greens, causes soil to compact and promotes a tough environment for turfgrass roots to thrive. This compacted soil doesn’t allow water or air to travel as freely often leading to thin and stressed turfgrass. This is why you’ll often see entry and exit points on cart paths struggling to grow like the rest of the course. Some properties will use targeted aeration to help combat this cart traffic compaction and why cart traffic control is so important to the golf maintenance staff.
Another major benefit of aerification is reducing thatch and organic matter in the soil profile. This is why greens are topdressed with sand following a core aerification. Replacing this excessive build-up of thatch with sand creates a medium where water, oxygen, and nutrients can travel more freely to the root zone. This creates root systems that can handle not just increased foot traffic but also environmental stresses like extreme heat or drought much easier.
What is Solid Tine Aerification?
Core aerification is the practice almost everyone thinks of when they hear the word aerify. Core aerification uses a hollow tine that pulls out soil and organic matter leaving hollow holes in the playing surface that need to be filled with sand. Solid tine aerification is usually performed with a much smaller, solid tine that leaves a smaller hole in the playing surface. Also known as needle tining, no sand is typically necessary with this practice as the holes are less disruptive to ball roll. A lot of properties will roll greens following a solid tine, and usually, the holes aren’t noticeable to the untrained eye within a matter of days. This practice is typically done in more stressful times of the year for cool-season grasses to increase oxygen levels in the root zone and promote a healthier growing environment.
Putting greens are traditionally the main focus of aerification due to the focused foot traffic in a small area. Some courses will aerify fairways and other trouble spots once a year or every couple of years to see these benefits. Aerification is important on all turfgrasses but traffic and compaction really dictate the urgency and frequency of the schedule. Aerification can also help your home lawn but unless you have a lot of traffic, or a dog that runs the same path nonstop, it isn’t vital to do it every season. The next time you show up to the course and the greens are covered in holes and sand, smile knowing it’s making your course healthier year-round and go ahead and give yourself a two-putt.
About the Author: Brian Neufeld
Brian Neufeld’s background includes more than 15 years of experience in golf course management, specializing in agronomy. Brian uses his knowledge of the game and best practices in turf sustention to create informative pieces for GolfTourney.com’s readers.