Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Why does my Golf Course Superintendent ruin the greens!?!?

I know that many may think that the answer is because he is evil and hates golf, but nothing could be further from the truth.  We are obviously referring to the practice of aerification. The surfaces on a golf course are intensely managed playing fields and the reality is that they require a great deal of attention and labor.  Aerification is one of the most labor intensive practices on a golf course and believe me, it is no fun for your golf course superintendent.
One of the most common practices for golfers is to compare the process of aerification at their course with that of their best friend, or better yet their course that they play in a different part of the country.  It was common to hear from a member what the course in Florida would do, interesting as it was, it was apples and oranges.  Soils are very different across numerous types of delineation boundaries.
Dominant Soils of the U.S.
 Not only are soils different north to south, east to west, but even on the same property.
I managed a course that glaciation had carved out a great lake, Lake Michigan.  The old Lake Michigan shoreline cut right across the property.  Nine holes was beautiful sandy loam soil and the other 18 was a terrible grey clay.  Our aerification philosophy was different for different holes on the same property!

The photo below is of an Aerification tine known as a hollow tine.  The hollow tine has a cut out which allows the soil to enter up and through the tine and eject onto the surface of whatever is being aerifyed. The above photo is a result of aerifying with a hollow tine.  The core is the soil and turf that is ejected out of the tine and deposited on the soil.  When hollow tine core aerification is done, the cores need to be cleaned up, either disposed of, or chopped up and incorporated into the playing surface.
The type of soil will dictate how much work and what type of process will follow core aerification.

Solid tines come in a variety of configurations.  The type of solid tine that is used is chosen for whatever the goal is.  A cross tine may be used for venting if the goal is to maximize surface area of soil that is to be exposed to air and if playability allows.  Solid tines come in a variety of sizes and the size that is used will be chosen to balance playability with the goals.
Goals of aerification, aside from making you the most popular employee at the club for two weeks, can range from amending the soil, organic matter control, improving root zone drainage, compaction relief, soil venting, disruption and correction of layering, soil composition improvement, improving the soil chemistry, interseeding and more.
Brooming sand after hollow tine
You see, since there are so many different reasons to aerify, no two courses may be trying to achieve the same result in a given year.  These playing surface are dynamic and needs change from year to year and even month to month.  Understanding why your Golf Course Superintendent aerifys a certain way, takes understanding your soils, structure, and turfgrass system, and the goals of such cultural practices to achieve the best playing surfaces possible.
Labor intensive work = not fun for anyone

The health of a turfgrass plant begins in the soil, it is the part of the system that the avid golfer do not see.  It is easy to dismiss aerification as an unnecessary disruption, however it is critical to the success of providing a quality playing surface that can withstand the stresses that are thrown at these systems.  The harder and more frequent the stress that we inflict on these systems, the more frequent and intense our cultural practices need to be.
So, don't worry, soon the playing surfaces will be healed, and the disruption will pay dividends.
Life is good,