Level Collars Improve Playability and Turf Health

By Brian Whitlark, agronomist, Southwest Region
July 3, 2012

Excess sand often is deposited on the putting green collar during regular greens aeration and topdressing events.  Over time, the collars become elevated compared to the putting green.


Do your putting green collars create a dam, holding surface water at the perimeter of the putting surface? Do you have to step down when entering the putting green? Do golf balls often come to rest or even ricochet off the collar? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may need to level the turf immediately outside the putting surface, most often referred to as the collar. This update will briefly explain why elevated collars are a problem and how to go about remediating the situation.

Why does the turf in the collars often become raised over time? 

Putting green collars often become elevated over time due to a variety of reasons:

  1. The biggest culprit is the excess debris and sand from putting green aeration and topdressing often get deposited on the collars.
  2. Although most turf mangers aerate collars once or twice per year, they are not often aerated or dethatched to a similar level as the putting greens.
  3. During light, frequent greens topdressing, it is not uncommon for excess sand to be deposited on the collars.
  4. In the morning, when dew is present, greens mowers and/or rollers pick up sand from the putting green and subsequently, that material is cleaned from the machines and discarded on the collar.

For the reasons mentioned above, the collars become raised above the surface of the putting green after only a few years. Consequently, playability is affected as golf balls that would otherwise leave the green surface come to rest against the “curb” of the collar. Furthermore, surface water becomes trapped on the putting green and may result in anaerobic conditions and black layer.

Should you notice elevated putting green collars, how do you go about fixing the problem? 

  1. If the collars are only slightly elevated, aggressive aeration followed by a 1-ton roller may be enough to lower the elevation.
  2. No matter what turf type, aggressive verticutting will reduce thatch and may remove enough material to improve the situation, but this likely will be a maintenance tactic rather than a remediation strategy.
  3. Most likely, a sod cutter should be the tool of choice.  If you have bermudagrass collars, then proceed directly to the article:  “Strip’Em Bare” by Stuart Bothe (http://gsr.lib.msu.edu/article/bothe-strip-4-13-12.pdf), where you will find an innovative and effective strategy to lower the collar elevation.
  4. For cool season grass collars, like the ones I recently visited in the Northern CA area, a sod cutter should be used to remove about a ¾ inch piece of sod (set aside for replacement if the turf is worth saving), followed by removing enough material to provide a level “tie in” and replace with healthy, weed free turf.  The new turf should offer golfers options to play their ball, such as putting, or bump-and-run shots or the high lob.   

In the end, the new cool season sod or “grown in” bermudagrass should provide a level surface with the putting green.  Such a practice may need to be considered every few years.  Golfers will appreciate the improved playability and cosmetics and the turf on edge of the putting green will thank you now that it can breathe again. 

Source:  Brian Whitlark (bwhitlark@usga.org) or (480) 215-1958

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