Saturday, August 6, 2016

2016 Greens Aerification

Early Monday morning we began our summer aerification of the greens and other areas on the golf course.  Aerification is one of the most important cultural practices we do to the greens as explained in this Course Care from USGA Why Aerate?.  This year we chose to use a 1/2" side eject coring tine set on a 1/5" x 1.5" spacing.   Using this spacing we affected 10.91% of the green and removed close to 30 cubic feet of material from the green per 1000 sq ft.

The organic matter content of our greens has increased considerably over the years to over 6%.  The recommended limit for greens is 3% so this year we had to remove the cores and since we don't have the proper equipment to do this, it was left up to the agronomy team to do this manually.  It was a tremendous effort by our staff over two days to remove close to 3,900 cubic feet of material from the greens surface by hand.

Here is a plug taken from the putting green which if you remember was devastated by nematode damage coming out of dormancy this spring, Greens Update.  Two things to take from this picture 1) We have reduced the impact of the nematodes and the damage they caused, and have grown some very nice roots.  2) We have a considerable amount of organic matter (roots, thatch, live tissue) in the top 1.5" of the greens surface.  Ideally we should be closer to 3/4" of this organic layer. This layer is a haven for disease, nematodes, and holds excessive moisture making the greens soft and slower.  Removing this material will only make the greens perform and play better.

After all the cores were picked up and hauled away (to be used to fill in low areas, tree stump holes, and drainage lines around the course later) the greens were blown off leaving a clean surface.  The holes created by the aerifier were open and ready for sand.

After the greens were cleaned off they were double rolled and heavily topdressed with AS45 damp sand from Golf Agronomics.  Over the entire golf course we applied close to 35 tons of sand to the greens.  The sand was allowed to dry, actually a couple of times as we had a few stray showers pass through which got the sand wet again, and then drug in twice using a circle pattern.  After the second dragging the greens were heavily watered to relieve some of the stress from all the abuse to the surface and to work the sand into the surface.

The next step of the process was to perform a vertical mowing of the greens surface.  This year our intent was to remove as much organic matter from the greens as possible so we set the blades at 0.200" below zero and made passes up and back in two directions.  This process removes a lot of the dead and decaying leaf and stem tissue from the green.  It also pulls the stolons to the surface so they can be removed which will make the greens healthier and roll smoother.

In between each direction the greens were blown off to remove the debris from the green and allow for a cleaner and more consistent cut with the verticuttters on the next pass.

We verticut following aerification rather than prior to pulling the core because experience, and advice from our friends at East Lake Golf Club, has shown that this process helps to work the sand into the holes and reduce the size of the surface opening of the aerification hole.  The vertical mowing process will actually pull the leaf blades over the hole reducing the visual affect of the aerification process and will aid in helping the grass to grow over the opening faster which will help make the golfer happier, quicker.

The next step was to remove the leaf surface that was stood up by the vertical mowing process.  We set our sand reel cutting units at 0.150" and mowed up and back in one direction.  The greens were then blown off again and heavily watered again.

On Thursday the greens received another 35 tons of sand to continue filling in the aerification holes.  The sand will help to dilute the organic matter in the top of the greens profile, will help water and air exchange compared to the heavy thatch layer which was present in the top two inches of the green, and help smooth the surface out for better putting.  The greens were drug multiple directions and in circles after each mowing and topdressing.

After all the coring, topdressing, verticutting, mowing and dragging there is only one step left and that is to roll the greens with a 1.25 ton street roller.  The heavy roller will remove the majority of the tire tracks from the greens and start the greens along the path to recovery. Several different fertilizers and soil amendments were applied to the greens and after one final drag and after one more heavy irrigation cycle Greens Aerification 2016 was in the books.

So yes this has been a lengthy blog post but it has been a very long week and all the work done by your agronomy team will pay off tremendous benefits from here on.  I have to thank Robin and our upper management in Nashville for allowing us the time to perform all these tasks properly and not rushing through them as we normally have to.  We usually have only two days to accomplish all the tasks we performed over these five days but this way we got to take our time, slow down, and do the job better which will allow the course to recover quicker and perform better.

I can not thank our agronomy staff enough for their dedication and hard work.  After all the long hours for the TGA Match Play Championships last week to come right behind that with aerification was a lot to ask.  They performed flawlessly and had a great attitude the entire week doing all the hard work in the baking sun to make your golf course better.  If you see the agronomy staff out on the course let them know how much their commitment to the conditioning of the course means to you.  They deserve the recognition for all their efforts.

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