We understand that it is incredibly frustrating to turn up to the golf course, only to discover, in layman's terms, that the green is full of little holes or covered in sand. So we thought that you were owed some simple answers. This post will quickly explain why we aerate and top dress the greens with sand, what different solutions we use and whether you get 'relief' or not if your putt is disrupted.
When you consider that golf greens are generally only about 1% of the total area of the golf course, yet 50% of the game is played on them - we understand their importance to you and the intention of this post is to explain that unless we maintain the greens properly, we will eventually kill them. In short, we apologise for the short term disruption, but it is necessary if you want to maximise your enjoyment of the game across the whole season.
Our main greens enjoy a healthy combination of what are known as soil solids (minerals and organic material) and soil pores (space for water and air). This combination provides a healthy rootzone and ultimately healthy grass.
This successful combination is disrupted over time by one of two challenges; one is through an unhealthy imbalance of solids and the other through a reduction in soil pores through compaction.
If not managed appropriately, these can adversely affect the performance of the green in many ways, such as ball bounce, ball roll, reduced ball speed and in the long term, damage the soil structure, which may lead to expensive reconstruction costs and avoidable player down time.
Let's take compaction first.
Why do we aerate the greens?
Essentially high volumes of people treading on the greens will reduce the soil pores and eventually damage the health of the grass. We are blessed with a course with natural chalk and shale drainage. Whilst compaction problems occur on all courses, those with heavier soil bases such as clay tend to suffer much worse. So we are luckier than most, but our greens do still require relief from compaction.
Maintaining the correct balance of the soil solids is critical for sustaining healthy plant growth. The spaces between the particles of solid material however are just as important. It is in these pore spaces which create the environment for the plant to obtain the necessary water, air and nutrients it requires to drink, breathe and grow.
And what about healthy soil?
Why do we top dress the greens?
In short, our agronomists point to the 15 year study by Nebraska University and have made clear to us that getting sand into the root zone is critical to dilute the amount of organic matter that accumulates in the soil. Organic matter comes from dead roots and shoots, and is increased by the amount of fertilizer and water used. A green that has excess organic matter is soft and spongy, doesn't drain well, shows visible foot prints from golfer foot traffic, and is not a good putting surface.
How do we aerate?
The main aim of aeration is to penetrate the soil profile to create new pore space and we use two primary methods.
we have just hollow cored the new Short Game Academy Course greens. We did this because we wanted to both aerate the soil and change the soil composition to create an accelerated growth environment for new seeds. For the main greens we have invested in new grooming equipment to manage our thatch depth and the agronomist currently advises that we do not need to hollow core as a thatch removal mechanism.
The problem with hollow coring is that it is very disruptive to play. Solid tining heals much faster. It works by using varying depths and diameters of tines to puncture holes in the root zone. During the spring we are using quick healing pencil tines to open up the pores and encourage health. Later in the season, depending on soil health, we will consider using deeper tines with a shatter action - but for now we are in good shape.
NB This year we will also be testing Aero Quick, a brilliant combination of 'slitting' and 'solid tining' which penetrates 6 inches through the thatch with minimum disruption to play - watch this space!!
When do we aerate?
Aeration should be carried out on a regular basis, when weather and soil conditions allow. It ties in with our other seasonal renovation programmes, such as dethatching (or grooming) and topdressing which we complete in the spring and autumn.
Summary of key benefits of Aeration?
* Improves soil surface drainage (water infiltration)
* Helps to increase soil temperatures
* Increases soil pore space - allows gaseous exchanges in the soil (oxygen in, carbon dioxide out) that improves root growth and development
* Aids integration of topdressings into the soil profile
* Aids the breakdown of thatch/organic matter
* Promotes better surface levels that will increase ball roll /speed
* Aids surface firmness/dryness, thereby increasing ball bounce and surface grip
We strongly believe that these benefits are worthy of a short spell of disruption and hope that this note helps to relieve some of the frustration you may feel when your game is impacted by this essential maintenance work.
What About Those Aeration Holes - Do You Get Relief?
Those aeration holes may be around for a couple weeks. If your golf ball comes to rest on an aeration hole, what's the ruling? Can I get relief? The answer is NO. Aeration holes do not qualify as an abnormal ground condition, because the governing bodies specifically say they do not qualify as "ground under repair".
Hope this is helpful