Since we aerated the greens this week at Bellevue Golf Course, let’s talk about why this has to be done. We do this twice per year, pull out the cores, shovel them off the green, and top-dress the green with sand to make it smooth again to putt on.
The aerating of greens is mainly to relieve compaction from 60,000 people walking in the same 5,000 square foot green. When a green becomes compacted, the water will not penetrate the soil and get to the roots. Greens are made up of 90 percent sand because sand granules are very strong and can take traffic without compacting quickly.
The other reason we aerate is to let gases given off by the roots escape and to let air get to them. If gases have no place to go, the roots will suffer. When we aerate greens you literally can smell the gases coming out of the holes. At our course we fertilize the greens the week before and the holes close in about 8 days, not a bad price to pay for nice greens the rest of golfing season.
After greens are done we start on fairways, this is a big job that takes perfect weather and patience from members as well as turf staff. We pull out big cores that are 5/8 wide and 2 inches long. This is done with a big machine on the back of a tractor.
After the cores are out, we have to wait until they are dry enough to break up. We break them up because it is not feasible to shovel the cores off a fairway and then top-dress the entire fairway after.
After the cores are broken up, we use a big drag mat to sweep the soil back into the holes. Next comes attention to thatch, the layer where the soil and grass meet that builds up over the course of a year. When the thatch layer gets too thick, water or pesticides can’t penetrate that layer the grass dries out and will eventually die. When just the thatch work is done, it looks like tiny balls of dried up grass. We pick it up with a big vacuum.
The last step is to clean up any missed spots with a fairway mower, and when we are done it looks like we were never there.
The one challenge we face when aerifying, other than weather, which needs to be perfect so the cores can dry, is golfers driving on the fairway while we are working on it, if you see a fairway being aerated, please stay off it with carts. The fairway is extremely stressed from the whole process and will bounce back much quicker with no cart traffic.
We aerify in August for the same reason courses are seeded in August, great grass growing weather. The nights are cool and the days have enough warmth to germinate grass.
If you would like to get all of the information you need to play great golf in one lesson, call, e-mail or come in any time for an appointment.
Steve Wozeniak is PGA Director of Instruction Bellevue/Lake Spanaway Golf Courses. He has taught more than 50 tour players and over 100 PGA and LPGA teaching professionals, including Jim Colbert, Rocco Mediate, Emily Klein, Jim Dent, Marco Dawson, Jim Mclean and Leonard Thompson. With his easy-to-understand, rid-yourself-of-the-nonsense approach to the golf swing, he is one of the top instructors in the country. Readers can contact him at email@example.com or www.bellevuepgc.com.