All around South Florida there are the usual indicators that the winter golf season is at an end. At private clubs throughout the area, member and guest rounds have dropped off, and reciprocal and annual summer membership programs are now in effect.
So begins the summer course maintenance season. Although disliked by golfers as well as the course maintenance staff, core aeration of putting greens, tees, fairways, and roughs is an absolutely necessary maintenance task for recovering from winter season damage, reducing and controlling regionalUpdateContentzone organic matter accumulation, and maintaining a dense, healthy turf cover most of the time.
It has been six to eight months since the last core aeration on putting greens and other important play areas. With routine mowing and other maintenance practices, in combination with seasonal play, moisture infiltration and regionalUpdateContentzone gas exchange have declined. This is true even when periodic venting with small diameter solid tines or water injection is performed because the benefits of venting quickly dissipate.
Controlling thatch/organic matter accumulation with bermudagrass-based putting greens in Florida has always been a challenge, and core aeration is a key practice for physically removing the material. Based on university research and field experience, the annual core aeration program needs to impact at least 20% to 25% of the total surface area with bermudagrass putting greens. To accomplish this, two to four coring replications need to be conducted over the summer, depending on tine size and the numbers of holes per square feet. For courses in Central to South Florida, the first coring ideally should be performed in late April to early May, and, for maximum effectiveness, should be conducted on an every six-to-eight week interval over the remainder of the growing season.
Unfortunately, at many courses it is requested or even demanded that the first core aeration be delayed as long as possible so that early summer season reciprocal or daily fee play are not negatively impacted. Given the economic challenges that the Florida golf industry is still dealing with, the need to maximize rounds is understandable. However, course officials and golfers must also understand that proper timing of core aeration and other basic course maintenance tasks is essential for producing the desired results and being able to maintain a healthy turf cover and appropriate conditioning the majority of the time.
For more information on this basic and essential management practice, click the below link to the March 11, 2011 on-line issue of the Green Section Record.