COURSE CARE
Slow Recovery From Core Aeration And A Lot Of Divots May 9, 2012 By Adam Moeller

(Left) Cool air, low soil temperatures and occasional frosts have limited turfgrass growth throughout the Northeast, causing slow recovery from core aeration. (Right) Heavy use of the practice range has resulted in a lot of divots at many facilities. The early usage of the practice range may compromise conditions as the season progresses.

Over the past few weeks of Turfgrass Advisory Service (TAS) visits two consistent themes have been heard at golf courses throughout the Northeast. The first issue is slow recovery from core aeration. Warm, dry weather in March and early April looked promising for rapid recovery from early season core aeration. Unfortunately, the second half of April and beginning of May brought more typical cool air and soil temperatures and several moderate frost events, causing turfgrass growth to slow dramatically. If the turfgrass is not actively growing, recovery from core aeration will be slow. Fertilizing the putting greens prior to or immediately after core aeration helps stimulate growth and recovery but if the soil temperatures remain cool, this cultural practice will not be as effective. Avoid over-fertilizing the putting greens to try to overcome the slow recovery because this will compromise turfgrass regionalUpdateContent production, carbohydrate (i.e., energy) storage, and eventually lead to excessive shoot growth. Want to avoid slow recovery from core aeration in the future? The answer is not to abandon core aeration because this is one of the most important practices to produce high quality putting surfaces! Instead, core aerate in the spring when air temperatures and turfgrass growth are more consistent, often mid-April through mid-May. Scheduling core aeration is often complicated and each golf course must balance the pros and cons of when is the best time for your facility. To read more about the relationship between aeration how to encourage rapid recovery read the article, Core Cultivation – Timing is Everything

The second issue commonly heard on TAS visits over the past few weeks is concerns with excessive divots on the practice range and par 3 teeing grounds. The early spring brought a lot of golfers out much earlier than normal, which was an unexpected revenue boost at many facilities. Unfortunately, heavy use of the practice range has brought on a lot of divots. This has also been the case on par 3 teeing grounds. As mentioned above, turfgrass growth has been slow and inconsistent in most parts of the Northeast so divot recovery has been poor. This means that the condition of these teeing grounds may deteriorate as the season progresses. On the practice range, this may require limiting use and increased overseeding and fertility inputs. When using practice range, taking the best possible divot pattern is also recommended. You might want to share the article, Practice Like A Pro, with the players at your course to solicit their help with this problem. 

Unfortunately, not even taking divots properly, increased fertility, and frequent tee rotation, can completely overcome the limitations of an undersized, and heavily used practice or par 3 tee. The same can be said with teeing grounds that are heavily shaded. Rebuilding and enlarging teeing grounds and removing trees to increase sunlight exposure should be a high priority for facilities with chronic problems with divots. Two Green Section articles that will be helpful in this regard are Building A New Practice Tee – Super Size It! and Guidelines For Building Great Tees

USGA agronomists can provide insightful and invaluable information involving all areas of golf course maintenance, which will help maximize turf health, playability, and efficiency. Contact Dave Oatis, Director doatis@usga.org; Adam Moeller, Agronomist amoeller@usga.org; or Jim Skorulski, Senior Agronomist jskorulski@usga.org for a Turf Advisory Service visit this season.