Eliminating hollow-tine aeration entirely is not ideal for most facilities, but it can be effective in the right scenario with the right set of preexisting conditions. This type of program is desired by many because solid-tine aeration is less disruptive and requires less labor than hollow-tine aeration. However, because solid-tine aeration does not remove any material from the profile, it will not produce desirable results for facilities that do not topdress regularly or that are dealing with some type of soil issue, such as elevated organic matter content or soil layerin
Solid-tine-only aeration programs are better suited for putting green profiles that are well modified with sand and have no textural layering issues. Additionally, with this type of program it is critical that sand topdressing applications are made frequently to dilute new organic matter as it accumulates near the surface. Facilities that have adopted this type of program typically topdress every week during the growing season and implement a minimalistic nitrogen fertility program to eliminate luxuriant growth and reduce the rate of organic matter production.
It is also important to weigh the political implications when considering a move to this type of program. If hollow-tine aeration becomes necessary in the future after adopting this type of program, it will likely be a difficult sell to the golfers after they have become accustomed to less-disruptive practices. It would be a wise decision to establish a protocol for testing organic matter every year to confirm levels are being maintained within an ideal range. Additionally, before a firm decision is made to switch to a solid-tine-only aeration program, it should be documented that if yearly testing shows organic matter levels are moving outside the ideal range, it will be necessary to implement core aeration.
Organic matter management is one of the key components to providing healthy, resilient and firm putting greens. While there is no one-size-fits-all program, there are plenty of options to help superintendents accomplish what is necessary from an agronomic perspective while also trying to minimize the level of disruption to the playing surface. That said, the growing popularity of the methods discussed in this article does not mean that more traditional methods are not effective. Every course has its own site-specific circumstances and the superintendent should work with other managers at the facility to determine what program is best for the golf course and golfers. A USGA agronomist can also help evaluate the putting greens and develop a customized plan for the course. Regardless of what methods are chosen, it is important to remember that the long-term benefits far outweigh the short-term disruption associated with any form of putting green cultivation.
Gross, P. 2019. Is solid-tine aeration right for your greens? USGA Green Section Record. October 4. 57(19).
Murphy, J. A., H. C. Chen, K. Genova, J. W. Hempfling, and C. J. Schmid. 2019. Effects of finer-textured topdressing sand on creeping bentgrass putting green turf. USGA Turfgrass and Environmental Research Program: 2018 Research Summaries. 148-169.
Whitlark, B. and C. Thompson. 2019. Light and frequent topdressing programs. USGA Green Section Record. May 3. 57(9):1-8.