Why do we always aerate when the greens are perfect?
It can be frustrating to see thousands of holes punched into perfectly good greens, but there are good reasons why aeration usually occurs when greens are at their best. Aeration is stressful for putting green turf. The more favorable the growing conditions are, the quicker the greens will recover. While aerating very late or very early in the year might seem less disruptive to the golf schedule, the longer recovery time and risk of added turf damage can actually lead to more disruption. Aeration timing may also depend on seasonal changes in staffing. Performing aeration when the staff is at full strength helps expedite the process and subsequent recovery, which means normal playing conditions return sooner.
USGA Video: “Fore the Golfer: Golf Course Aeration – The W(hole) Story”
How long is it going to take before the greens are back to normal?
The short answer is that it depends. Recovery time varies based on the grass species, size of aeration holes, turf health and the weather. A quick recovery is everyone's preference, so superintendents take various steps to ensure the fastest possible turnaround. They choose a time for aeration when putting greens are typically healthy and growing well so they can recover more easily. Superintendents also typically fertilize the greens before or during aeration so that the grass grows rapidly through the topdressing sand and fills the gaps created by aeration.
Why can't we skip it?
Skipping aeration "just this once" may seem appealing when the weather is good and golf season is in full swing, but missing aeration events can allow unseen problems to develop, causing greater disruption in the future. If the thatch layer is allowed to build without periodically being broken up and diluted with sand, it can turn into a dense sponge that traps water near the surface. This leads to soft, bumpy playing conditions and greens that are increasingly vulnerable to damage from disease and traffic. Staying on top of aeration requirements means a less-disruptive aeration schedule and less risk of poor playing conditions.