Preventative maintenance is an integral part of successful golf course management. Golfers view aerification as an inconvenience that takes the greens out of play for a day, pulling cores from the greens and leaving holes that can affect putting for many days before healing.
But a golfer needs to understand how important aerification is to producing healthy turf.
Aerification (also known as aeration or hollowtining) achieves three important objectives. It relieves soil compaction, it provides a method to improve the soil mixture around the highest part of a green's roots and it reduces or prevents the accumulation of excess thatch.
Like so many things, the quality of a good putting green is more than skin deep. In fact, the condition of a green has a lot to do with what goes on below the surface. In order for grass to grow at 3mm, it must have deep, healthy roots. Good roots demand oxygen. In good soil, they get the oxygen from tiny pockets of air trapped between soil and sand particles.
Over time, the traffic from golfers's feet (as well as mowing equipment) tends to compact the soil under the putting green - particularly when the soil contains a lot of clay like at DCC. When soil becomes compacted, the air pockets on which the roots depend are crushed, and the roots are essentially left gasping for air. Without oxygen, the grass plants become weaker and will eventually wither and die.
Aerification is a mechanical process that creates more air space in the soil and promotes deeper rooting, thus helping the grass plants stay healthy. In most cases, it's done by removing half-inch (13mm) cores (those plugs you sometimes see near a green or in fairways) from the compacted soil, allowing for an infusion of air and water that brings a resurgence of growth. The spaces are then filled with sand "topdressing" that helps the soil retain air space and makes it easier for roots to grow downward.
At DCC the greens are constructed of soils with significant amounts of silt, clay and fine organic particles that are prone to compaction. Filling aerification holes with sand improves drainage and resists compaction. The periodic introduction of sand to a green's top layer can, over time, avoid or postpone expensive rebuilding or renovation of greens.
There are many types of aerifying machines with different attachments that address different problems in the various stages of the life of a green. So the next time you're ready to scream when the aerifiers are brought on the course, remember that a little preventative maintenance produces the best greens over the long haul.
Here is a few photos of the Aerifing / Hollowtining process...
Toro Pro core hollow tining greens
Cleaning the cores of the greens
Greens cleaned and ready for sand
Top dressing greens
Green and fringe all topdressed
Drag the sand into the holes with brushes and a drag matt to fill them
All hole filled
Fertilizing greens with 17-0-17 for fast new growth
Watering in all the fertilizer... All done