WEEK 14 — WHY AERATE THE GREENS?
You've just arrived at the golf course for your much-anticipated round of golf, only to find that the greens have been recently aerated. Although it presents a temporary inconvenience that must be dealt with, rest assured, no superintendent likes to aerate the greens; it is a labor-intensive, time-consuming process.
So why do superintendents insist on aerating the greens, often two, three, or more times per year? They do so because it keeps the grass healthy, and the procedure is so beneficial that almost every golf course must go through the process.
The primary goal of aeration is to relieve soil compaction, improve water infiltration, and control organic matter, which consists of decaying roots and grass stems. This organic matter acts like a sponge, and when it gets too thick it holds too much water near the surface. This condition limits new root growth, increases disease, and causes other turf problems. Aeration, combined with sand topdressing applied to fill the holes, is the most effective way to manage the organic matter near the green's surface.
When the soil holds the proper amount of air and water, the result is healthier turf and less traffic damage to the greens. Too much air results in excessively dry greens that can come under severe stress. Too much water results in a short, weakened root system and eventual turf failure. Aeration holes increase air exchange, promote better root growth, and help dry the top few inches of the soil profile. The result is a better root system. Visual proof can be seen by examining white roots in the aeration holes.
Fortunately, today's superintendents have at their disposal a wide variety of aeration tools to maintain healthy greens. Although the most common method involves removing cores and backfilling the holes with sand, other aeration practices include making very small holes spaced closely together; pulling long cores to achieve deep aeration; aerating with solid tines; and even aerating with high pressure jets of water. There is no single best aeration program that is appropriate for every situation. Superintendents frequently adjust their programs throughout the year, depending on factors such as current weather conditions, equipment and labor availability, grass species and varieties, water quality and availability, tournament dates, and other variables, all to achieve the best playing conditions possible.
Reprinted with permission from the USGA.