Without a doubt the number one discussion I have with our guests season after season, involves aeration. It’s understandable why one would question the reasoning behind punching holes in a perfectly healthy green and disrupting the playability for several weeks. If you have been golfing for any length of time then you may have come to accept that core aeration is just a necessary evil.
Nevertheless, you still may wonder, just why do we aerate greens? Is it really that important? How long will they take to heal? Why do some courses make larger or smaller holes? And so on…Hopefully, I can help you understand the method behind the madness.
Simply put core aeration does several important things...
1. It allows air into the soil
2. It removes thatch
3. It alleviates compaction
Accomplishing all three of these things is vitally important to maintain healthy greens. However, there are many factors that that may make any one of these benefits more important than the rest to a particular golf course. How and when were the greens constructed? Are they soil or sand based? How many rounds do the greens receive? What is the predominant grass species and cultivar that the superintendent must manage? How well do the greens drain? And the list goes on… The answers to questions like these will factor into just what type of equipment will be used and the size, spacing and depth of the holes. Also, when and how often this practice must be performed may vary from season to season. When it comes to aeration, one size does not fit all. There really is no one correct method suitable for every golf course.
The greens aeration at Pine Ridge is usually scheduled in early April and again in early September every year. Our greens are sand based; therefore, compaction is less of a concern. Additionally, our greens were planted to A-4 creeping bentgrass. This cultivar produces an excellent putting surface but, grows more aggressively than older bent varieties thus, producing more thatch. Thatch can build up creating a thick layer of organic material that holds water near the surface and can prevent air and nutrients from entering the root zone. Not to mention it can lead to a soft, puffy and slow putting surface. Therefore, we have carefully calculated the size and spacing of the holes to remove the most amount of thatch with the least amount disruption as possible. If we were to neglect this process the greens might not putt very well or even survive the summer.
As for how long it will take to heal… That’s a tricky one. Likely it will take 2 weeks before the greens improve to the point where most find them acceptable. However, keep in mind that rainfall and temperatures will affect how long it really takes. Greens comprised mostly of annual bluegrass tend to green up earlier in the spring than bent and usually will recover from aeration more quickly. So again, how fast the recovery process takes will vary from course to course. There are so many variables involved that it’s difficult to predict exactly when things will heal for certain.
Hopefully, I have been able to help you understand a little more about the”hole” process. If you enjoy how well the greens putt in the summer, then please remember that aeration was a temporary inconvenience that paid big dividends for the rest of the season.