Next week, we will be aerifying the golf course. The course will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday, August 29th and 30th, reopening at 9:30 am Thursday for Ladies League.
Here were our Department’s goals:
- Aerify Greens with solid 3/8″ tines to a depth of 4.5″. This is to incorporate sand into the top profile. Solid tines do not pull a core and removed material. Our goal is to incorporate close to 100 tons of sand into the greens. Take a look at the picture below from the middle of 12 green. You can see the dark clay soil at the bottom, which is what the greens were constructed of. The upper profile is from the past 30+ years of topdressing and aerification. Our greens are 98 years old and are shaped like bowls internally. Clay holds water which was what they wanted 98 years ago, since there was no irrigation systems. Fast forward to now, and we don’t want them to hold water; we want the opposite. Incorporating sand into the upper profile is the best way we can alter our 98-year-old technology to meet the expectations of today’s player.
- The greens will also be deep-tined with a 1/2″ solid tine to a depth of 10”. On average, we have 5-7″ of sand built up atop the clay base of our greens. However, the clay layer still acts like a bathtub and holds water. Deep-tining breaks up that clay and allows water to penetrate it, allows essential gas exchange to occur, and gives roots the chance to grow more freely through those channels. However, some greens don’t have as much sand built into their profile. Look at the picture below, from the back of 12 green. It looks a little different from the profile in the middle of that green! Some greens have been expanded; some, the old technology didn’t distribute sand evenly. These areas, like the back of 12 green, have only 2-4″ of sand in their profile. You may have noticed us plugging voids in the back of 12 green over the past two weeks. These areas have more Poa Annua in them, and struggle to survive hot, humid, and wet conditions. We will be aerifying these designated areas more aggressively, with the goal of becoming more consistent throughout all 18 greens. Areas that have less sand built up in their profile suffer under our management practices. They are the weakest link in our greens, and we have to be more proactive to get them up to speed, to perform the way we want them to.
- Tees will be solid-tined with a 3/4″ tine to a depth of 4.5″. Sand will be worked into those holes to strengthen the soil profile. Most of our tees are built out of clay. Since they are flat, with slight surface drainage, we want to improve their performance through topdressing and aerification. We will deep-tine tees right before the golf course closes as a preventative measure for winter ice formation. The picture below shows that we don’t have much topdressing built into the profile, as we’ve been topdressing them only since 2010. What you have experienced is that the quality of our tees has increased dramatically since starting that program.
- Fairways and approaches will also be solid-tined with 3/4″ tines to a depth of 4.5″. Approaches and green surrounds will be topdressed as well. We want the approaches and surrounds to play like extensions of the greens. In order to do that, we must improve the soil profile to dry more quickly, become smoother, and let the turf become tighter.
- All of the above, weather/equipment permitting, will be completed by the time the golf course opens on Thursday.
- Fairways, approaches and intermediate roughs (1st cut) will also be deep-tined with a 1″ tine 14″ deep. This process is extremely slow. As you can imagine, penetrating the ground at that depth, the machine must move slowly: .5 mph to be exact. We deep-tine fairways every fall, which is a vital factor in their performing better and better with each passing year. We do not topdress all of our fairways, and many of them have a very high clay content. We have been topdressing the wettest of our fairways, and have seen fantastic improvements in those areas since starting. Our fairways compact very easily, do not drain well, and several of them, such as 2, 3, 6, 8, 10, 13, 15 and 18, collect water from large surrounding areas. This process of deep-tining is slow, but has proven well worth the time and effort. We will start the deep-tining process on Wednesday once the tractor large enough to operate the machine, is freed up from greens aerification. The process of deep-tining fairways and surrounds will take 2 weeks. We will complete, on average, 2 holes per day, operating the machine for 9-10 hours/day. If you encounter the machine operating on a fairway, please pick up and move ahead of it. It will NOT stop for play. Stopping for play will only lengthen the process and make us very inefficient. Thank you for your help and patience while we complete the season’s single most important cultural practice on fairways. Below is a nice diagram showing what happens during the deep-tine aerification. Notice how the tine goes into the ground, then shifts/kicks, breaking up compaction and opening the subsoil. This action is what gives us improved drainage, keeping our surfaces drier and promoting Bentgrass over Poa.
- The driving range tees and fairway will be aerified during the next open Monday, September 11th, before the outside golf event. Aerification is a time-consuming endeavor. Here are some stats to help you understand why it’s more efficient for us, and enjoyable for you, to close the golf course for aerification:
- If you’re interested in a short video the USGA made a few years ago, click on the link below:
Aerification is a time-consuming endeavor. Here are some stats to help you understand why it’s more efficient for us, and enjoyable for you, to close the golf course for aerification:
- We will incorporate close to 400 tons of sand into greens, tees, approaches and select fairways. We cannot have people around when hauling this much material through the property; safety is key.
- We will be working 15+ hour days Tuesday and Wednesday, before the sun rises and after it sets.
- We will be borrowing aerification equipment from another club in town to maximize efficiency.
- Tens of millions of holes will be punched into playing surfaces (you might not like this one…but you will eventually, after recovery).
- We need 100% focus on a lot of moving parts of the process, and cannot be looking up for on-coming golf to slow the process.
- This time of year means we have lost all of our college students, so we have less labor.
- We need weather to cooperate and dry the sand quickly before dragging it in, to expedite the process as much as possible.
- All of the dozens of pieces of equipment used during aerification must operate without failure to complete the process before opening the course.Fall aerification has advantages over spring. The soil temperatures are already warm, and there is no threat of frost, which can drastically delay recovery. As of today, the forecast looks great; let’s hope it stays that way. Come out and enjoy the course; it’s starting to dry out from the 4″ of rain last week. Aerification is the necessary evil of course maintenance. None of us enjoy it, but we all enjoy the benefits it brings, whether we admit it or not.
If you can remember the era of pulling cores, you’ll remember mud — tons and tons of mud smeared over approaches, fairways and tees. I’m not saying we will never pull a core again, but we are managing the turf differently from what was done in the past. As long as our soil test results are positive and we stay in a “safe zone” we will continue to solid-tine. This change has not only improved our turf conditions, but has also reduced the recovery time. There is science and art in Turf Management. The science comes into play with monitoring what’s happening beneath your feet, where the soil is alive and always evolving. The art comes into play getting aerification done properly and as efficiently as possible.
Fall aerification has advantages over spring. The soil temperatures are already warm, and there is no threat of frost, which can drastically delay recovery. As of today, the forecast looks great; let’s hope it stays that way. Come out and enjoy the course; it’s starting to dry out from the 4″ of rain last week. Aerification is the necessary evil of course maintenance. None of us enjoy it, but we all enjoy the benefits it brings, whether we admit it or not!