The “One, Two Punch” for Putting Greens
By Todd Lowe, senior agronomist, Florida RegionMay 26, 2011
A typical rootzone from a Florida putting green. This green was aerated with ¾-inch hollow tines and is awaiting the second aeration once the holes are filled with sand.
Golf courses in our region are beginning, or will soon begin, their summer aeration programs. Soil cultivation is quite contentious with golfers, but is much needed on Florida golf courses at this time.
Florida putting greens accumulate a significant amount of organic matter. The nearly 12-month growing season in some areas of Florida, and the quest for green conditioning, encourages rapid buildup of thatch and organic matter. As a result, cultivation practices like core aeration, verticutting, and sand topdressing must be conducted to keep up with the pace of bermudagrass growth.
Most courses core aerate putting greens three to four times with 1/2-inch or larger hollow tines. Ideally, the first aeration would occur in mid-May, with each subsequent aeration implemented every six weeks. With so many corings, the most common complaint we hear on summer TAS visits is, “The aeration holes seem to be just healing, when the greens are punched yet once again.”
An innovative technique to improve putting green playability without sacrificing turf health is to double-core aerate. Double aeration includes coring the greens, removing plugs, backfilling holes with sand, and then performing this same operation in a slightly different direction the next day. Large diameter tines (3/4-inch) are often used with this operation to increase sand incorporation into the rootzone and to dilute organic matter. When large tines are used, putting greens generally require only two double corings each summer.
Double aeration can significantly reduce the number of closings for core aeration. Courses that normally close three or more times each summer can reduce to twice each summer with double aeration when large tines are used. Also, it allows the golf course to be open throughout most of May, a time when many courses allow reciprocal play.
The downside to double aeration is that it just takes more time (10 to 14 days) to recover. Many golf course superintendents take advantage of the closure by performing other necessary practices like cultivation (verticutting, scalping, aeration) of tees, fairways and roughs, or additional projects like tree pruning and drainage/irrigation improvements in the absence of golfers. Summer months are slow for most Florida golf courses, and closure is more acceptable at this time of year, especially when it improves playability and reduces the number of aerations.
Source: Todd Lowe, firstname.lastname@example.org or 941-828-2625