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Dodge's Dirt

September 2013

I am always interested in comments made by customers in our weekly feedback document that I often use to review how we are doing with staff. A large part of the feedback is much appreciated and helps us to present a better product to you our customer. That being said, there are sometimes comments made that require explanation. The latest one was from a player wondering why we were aerifying so late when it was around September 10th. After spending my entire working life in this industry I can safely say that the middle of September is one of the best times to aerify. First of all, at most resort facilities players are paying a reduced rate. Secondly, temperatures are generally cooler this time of the year so the process puts less stress on the playing surface. Thirdly, less staff is consumed in mowing the golf course due to the cooler temperatures and so we can focus our labor on tasks which, though disruptive, are necessary to ensure the long-term health of our facility. This allows us to perform the work without the need to hire more staff-thus controlling costs and allowing us to continue to offer affordable greens fees. All this being said, I feel pretty good about our process and how we go about getting work done in the morning before players show up and then in the afternoon after players have cycled through the golf course. Making 60,000,000 aerification holes on fairways (I actually did calculate it) takes a long time and makes a big mess and all that we look for is your understanding as we perform the process. In the end, the playability of the golf course is affected in a very minimal way by fairway aerification-so find something else to blame the errant shot on J.

I have attached a brief article by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America that relates to aerification-in this case on putting greens but many of the principles apply. It brings up some nice points and hopefully can explain to you why exactly we aerify in the first place. The concepts here are relevant to not just our golf course but to any golf course you may frequent. Thank you in advance for your understanding and hope that you have had a great golfing season.

Why aerify?

It's a perfect, sunny morning and you've just reached the first green in regulation. You feel great and you know you're within birdie range. Then, you see them, those little holes in the green. Arrrgh! They've just aerified the course, and it's going to ruin your round, right?

Well, maybe not. Consider the fact that PGA Tour legend Tom Watson shot a sizzling record 58 at his then-home course, Kansas City Country Club, just days after the greens had been aerified.

Consider also that aerification is merely a short-term disruption that has long-term benefits for the course. When you see them, remember that without those little holes, the greens would eventually die.

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 to keep grass growing at 3/16-inch you have to 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' feet (as well as heavy mowing equipment) tends to compact the soil under the putting green - particularly when the soil contains a lot of clay. 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 will 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 1/2-inch cores (those plugs you sometimes see near a green or in fairways). The spaces are then filled with sand "topdressing" that helps the soil retain air space and makes it easier for roots to grow downward.

Other aerification techniques use machines with "tines" or knives that simply poke holes through the soil profile. A newer technique even uses ultra high-pressure water that's injected through the soil profile to create small holes that relieve some compaction but heal quickly.

The bottom line is that aerification is a necessary practice. But before you curse the superintendent for ruining your day, just think of Tom Watson.

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