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 or two, pulling cores or poking holes in the greens that can affect putting for many days before healing. To add insult to injury, aerification is best done in many parts of the country during mid-summer, at the height of the playing season and when most greens are in prime condition. Knowing the reasons for aerification may help golfers to understand how important aerification is to producing healthy turf.
Aerification 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 through introduction of a soil modifier (a more preferred sand choice)
- It reduces or prevents the accumulation of excess thatch
Like so many things, the quality of putting surfaces 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 1/8-inch or lower, 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 and maintenance equipment tend to compact the soil under the putting surface. 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 cores or poking holes in 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.
The bottom line is aerification is a necessary process that promotes turf health which in return can help a golf course superintendent produce quality putting surfaces.
Superintendent of Golf Courses, University of Notre Dame