Air it Out

Why Golf Course Aerification is a Must

Posted June 30, 2020

Aerification is a crucial process to maintaining grass and course quality. Others may refer to it as the time when they "Punch the Greens."

Below explains the significance of Aerification and Sand Topdressing and why they each are so important to the overall well-being and shape of the Golf Course:

What is Aerification:

Aerification is the process by which holes are put into the greens to allow for air to be able to get into the soil beneath the green. This aeration process is needed when the soil beneath the surface of the green becomes compacted. When the soil is compacted, the grass roots struggle to breathe.

If you think about the amount of footsteps walked on a green each day... it's a lot. "The average golfer will take about 45 steps on any green. So to get a number of steps on a green any given day, we need to multiply 45 times the foursome that is playing in that group. That makes 180 steps per foursome. Now, multiply 180 times the number of foursomes that play on that course per day (about 72 foursomes). That is 12,960 steps per day on each green. To the extreme, multiply that, times the days in the year, 365. That’s equals over 4.7 million steps! Now think about all of the equipment that is used in maintaining the greens throughout the year. Some of these pieces of machinery can weigh over a half ton. Run a mower over a green 180 times a year and that is an additional 180,000 pounds of compression per year. Compacted? I would say so. It’s a wonder that the greens even survive as long as they do." (Broad Run Golf & Practice Facility: Why Do Golf Courses Aerate Greens?)

Adverse Effects of Ignoring Aerification:

  • The sensistive grass on the greens could die
  • Lack of Oxygen levels will permantly affect the bent or bermuda
  • Promote weed growth on the course.

What is Sand Topdressing?

Topdressing is the practice of spreading sand on to greens, tee boxes and fairways. It has been a main part of golf course maintenance practices from the very beginning and provides a number of benefits to the overall health of the turf.

Benefits of Sand Topdressing:

  • Improved Smoothness – Voids exist within the turf canopy between turfgrass leaves and stems, causing inconsistent ball roll. Sand topdressing helps fill these voids to provide smoother and truer putts.
  • Thatch Dilution – The layer of organic debris, stems, crowns and roots in the upper rootzone – i.e., thatch – can become concentrated and encourage mower scalping and localized dry spots. Thatch should be diluted with sand through practices like verticutting and sand topdressing to maintain good turf quality.
  • Improved Turf Recovery – Occasional turf thinning can occur on putting greens. Sand helps cushion leaf tips and crowns and reduces algae.
  • Increased Firmness – Turf produces organic matter in the upper rootzone that creates soft, spongy playing conditions. Regular sand topdressing, along with core aeration, improves surface firmness and resiliency.
  • Improved Rootzone – Sand drains well and resists soil compaction. The accumulation of sand from multiple topdressings over many years can improve soil physical properties.

The amount of sand applied depends on the time of year and growth rate of the turfgrass. At courses with bermudagrass putting greens, more sand is applied during summer when the turf is actively growing; however, lighter rates of sand also may be applied during cooler months. Putting greens in the Deep South are topdressed with sand all year but generally are only “dusted” with lighter sand rates when turf growth slows as soil temperatures decrease. (USGA: The Benefits of Sand Topdressing)

Playing and course conditions are the ultimate importance for most golfers, therefore, golf course maintenance such as aerification and sand topdressing are needed to keep the turf healthy and playing well. Though it can be disruptive, the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term course closure, and though the greens may not play their best immediately following these treatments, the course is on its way to being in its best shape ever.

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