We are in the middle of the hottest time of the year in the Southeast. Days are long, dew points are high and afternoon thunderstorms are always a possibility. While the weather may be demoralizing at times, it is when warm-season turfgrasses are at their maximum growth potential. These grasses, including bermudagrass, thrive in the heat of the summer months. This is the primary reason that many golf courses throughout the Southeast have converted their putting greens from creeping bentgrass to ultradwarf bermudagrass.
Ultradwarf bermudagrass requires more mechanical and cultural inputs than creeping bentgrass, especially in the hot summer months. Routine vertical mowing and sand topdressing are best management practices to provide smooth, consistent putting surfaces. These practices are critical throughout the year but most important during the summer when managing bermudagrass greens.
To minimize disruption and optimize recovery, ultradwarf putting greens need to be aerated when they are growing the fastest. Timing is critical in many parts of the Southeast, where optimal growing conditions are limited to June, July and August. Core aeration, vertical mowing, sand topdressing and other aeration practices are designed to manage organic matter in the putting green soil profile. If organic matter gets too high, putting green surfaces will become soft and more susceptible to disease and stress. Organic matter management is critical to the long-term health and performance of ultradwarf putting greens.
Things to Consider
- Cultural programs can be implemented most efficiently when the golf course is closed. Close the golf course and communicate the schedule well in advance to optimize your aeration programs.
- Combine cultural practices to minimize course closure and recovery time.
- If staffing is an issue, consider hiring a contractor for certain cultural practices to reduce impact on the maintenance team.
- Sample for organic matter three months before and three months after core aeration to guide your program. Send the same depth and volume of soil every time and ask for loss-on-ignition testing from an accredited laboratory. Multiple samples from each green should be combined for submission.
Unfortunately, some golf courses have gotten behind on these practices and have far too much organic matter in their putting greens. To remediate the excessive buildup, these golf courses need to undertake an uncompromising core aeration program in the summer to improve putting green health and performance. While aeration programs may be disruptive to putting conditions in the short term, they are paramount to long-term success.
Many tools are used for aeration depending on the percentage and depth of organic matter in the putting green profile. DryJect, drill and fill, deep vertical mowing and deep solid-tine aeration are different cultural practices taking place on golf courses in the Southeast right now. Many of these programs are contracted out to trained professionals that have specialized equipment. I see many golf courses closing for at least one week – if not longer – for aeration of not only putting greens but all other surfaces. Getting the time and resources needed for aeration will help optimize long-term turf health and performance.
If you’re interested in getting help developing an aeration program for your greens, a USGA agronomist can work closely with you through our Course Consulting Service.
Additional USGA Resources:
- The Ins and Outs of Managing Ultradwarf Putting Greens
- Managing Organic Matter in Putting Greens
- Light and Frequent Topdressing Programs
- Why Courses Topdress Greens
- Aeration and Topdressing Content in the Green Section Record
Southeast Region Agronomists:
Chris Hartwiger, director, USGA Course Consulting Service – email@example.com
Jordan Booth, Ph.D., agronomist – firstname.lastname@example.org