Board of Directors

Executive Committee

Timothy Garceau
Haworth CC
President

Blake Halderman, CGCS
Brae Burn CC
Vice President

Russell Harris
Galloping Hill GC
Vice President

Thomas Kaplun
North Hempstead CC
Secretary

Richard Duggan, CGCS
Lake Waramaug CC
Treasurer

Anthony Girardi, CGCS
Rockrimmon CC
Past President


Staff

Susan O'Dowd
Executive Secretary

Directors

Grover Alexander
Hudson Hills GC

Robert B. Alonzi
Fenway Golf Club

Donald Beck
Fishers Island Club

Brian Benedict
The Seawane Club

Christopher Carson
Echo Lake CC

Stephen Finamore, CGCS
Alpine CC

Kenneth Lochridge
Glen Head CC

Scott Niven, CGCS
The Stanwich Club

Steve Whipple
West Point GC

Brian R. Mahoney
Metropolitan Golf Association

Gene Westmoreland
Metropolitan Golf Association

   
   
   

Superintendent's Spotlight

Why do They Punch Holes in Putting Greens?
By Scott Niven, CGCS 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For most golfers there is nothing worse than showing up at a golf course only to discover that the greens just recently had big holes punched in them and were buried in sand, or in more agronomical terms, were “ aerated.” Unfortunately, one of the most important parts of the game has been compromised and will no doubt be a detriment to your fun on that course that day. It is also likely that the day before the disruptive cultivation, that the greens were the best they had been all year! Believe me, as a golf course superintendent we don’t like to see those glassy surfaces disturbed any more than you do, but for the long term health of the greens, it is imperative that we aerate.

A putting green is the most intensely managed piece of turf on the planet and its cultivation has been studied by PhD‘s at universities for over 100 years. And one thing we have learned is that putting greens must be aerated on an annual basis to assure that oxygen and moisture can get into the root system for healthy growth of the grass plants. Besides the compaction effects of the traffic from golfers, all of our daily mowing and rolling activities that we use to create the smooth surface contribute to compaction which is detrimental to healthy growth of the turf. Another more natural negative effect of growing fine turfgrass is the production of thatch (the organic layer between the green surface and the soil, consisting of dead and living stems and roots) by the grass plant which can harbor insects and diseases as well as detract from the smoothness of the greens if allowed to become too thick. Thatch and compaction will inhibit the movement of air and water into the rootzone and are the two primary maladies we are trying to prevent with our aeration activities.

Most golf courses will aerate their greens twice a year, once in the spring and again sometime in the fall. This frequency can be fine-tuned by getting an annual soil analysis at a certified lab that will run a battery of tests including the infiltration rate and the percent organic matter (thatch) in the upper layers of the green profile, among many other parameters. However, those two are the most important results in telling us how the greens will perform under all types of management and weather scenarios. If you like your greens “firm and fast”, then the infiltration rate needs to be high to allow for excess moisture to quickly drain through the putting green profile and the percentage of organic matter needs to be low so that the greens will be firm and tolerant of low mowing heights without scalping.

Thanks to creative engineers at the various turf equipment companies, we have machines that will punch a hole or pull a core from a diameter of about .2” all the way up to 1” and at various depths from 1” down to 12”. The metal implements that create the holes are referred to as “tines”. Furthermore, invariably the holes produced by the tines are filled with a sand topdressing to preserve their positive effects on infiltration and thatch dilution, but that is a whole other topic for another day. Most clubs will use the larger part of the tine spectrum when they do their primary aerations in the spring and fall, and during the playing season, use very small tines (.2” - .25” dia.) that we refer to as “venting”. The venting is not disruptive at all and, when practiced on a two to four week interval, will help to maintain infiltration and reduce compaction as we go through the busy part of the golf season.

The ultimate decision on tine size and depth are based on the grass type (Bent, Poa, Bermuda), green profile (sand based or native soil) and soil test results, but in general most courses will try to achieve an annual surface disruption figure of about 20%. That number is computed by multiplying the area of the tine by its relative spacing on the green. From a golfers point of view, usually the bigger the tine and the closer the spacing, the worse disruption to the putting conditions. The silver lining of this necessary evil is that in just 2 weeks the greens will resume their pool table smoothness and they will be healthy for your putting enjoyment all season long!