We will start to aerate greens on March 27th…the dreaded evil necessity of spring.

It is time to aerate greens again. The springtime nuisance all golfers deal with. As a player I say nuisance. As a golf course operator I know it is a needed maintenance practice to help maintain quality greens. Kurt Neubert, our GCSAA Superintendent, and Joe Nevills, our incoming GCSAA Superintendent, when Kurt retires in July, have worked diligently to make this a smooth process for the golfers. We will close on March 27th in an effort to get as far as possible in the process without disruption. On March 28th we will have the front 9 open and the back nine closed.

The decision of when to aerate greens in mainly based on weather. The greens need to be actively growing for the healing process to begin. While we continue to mow and roll most days there has not been real active growth even with the nice February and March weather. Some rain this week with the warm temps should do the trick.

Below is an article from our friends at the USGA that explains the need to aerate.

The word aeration stimulates negative emotions for many golfers. It may come as a surprise, but golf course superintendents also dislike aeration. After all, the last person who wants to disrupt the smoothness of the putting greens they work so hard to maintain is the superintendent.

Golfers often ask, “Why is aeration needed so often?” Aeration is an essential program to keep playing surfaces healthy and in good condition. Aeration primarily is performed to control organic matter – i.e., decaying roots and grass stems – relieve soil compaction, stimulate root growth and improve drainage. If organic matter becomes too thick, it acts like a sponge and holds water at the surface after rain or irrigation. Excessive organic matter also inhibits root growth, reduces oxygen levels in the soil, encourages disease and eventually can lead to turf failure. Furthermore, excessive organic matter creates soft surfaces prone to ball marks, foot printing and inconsistent playing conditions. Aeration and topdressing are the most effective ways to control organic matter and maintain smooth, firm putting surfaces.

Core aeration involves physically removing small soil cores – e.g., 0.5-inch diameter cores – from the turf and is the most common type of aeration. Aeration holes allow excess moisture to evaporate and promote gas exchange in the soil, resulting in stronger root systems and turf that is better able to tolerate golfer traffic.

Proper timing of aeration will ensure the fastest possible recovery and return to smooth surface conditions. The key to a quick recovery is to perform aeration when the turf is healthy and actively growing. The articles, Core Cultivation: Timing is Everything and Easing the Pain of Core Aeration expand on proper aeration timing. There are many types of aeration that superintendents use throughout the season; some are more labor-intensive and disruptive to playing surfaces than others. Less-disruptive forms of aeration, including venting aeration with small-diameter, solid tines, also are beneficial because they can alleviate turf stress by promoting oxygen levels in the soil. Aeration programs that have a small impact on a playing surface generally can be performed throughout the season with little or no disruption to play.

The type and frequency of aeration needed is course specific. Superintendents adjust aeration programs based on soil conditions, turf requirements, climate/weather, available labor and equipment, course events, etc.

Aeration can create short-lived disruption but it is a highly beneficial program that keeps greens healthy and playing well.

Playing conditions are of the utmost importance for most golfers, and aeration is needed to keep turf healthy and playing well. Aeration can be disruptive, but the long-term benefits of aeration far outweigh the short-lived disruption. The next time you play on greens that were recently aerated, keep in mind that aeration is performed for the long-term health of the course. The greens may not play their best immediately following some aeration treatments, but everyone is playing the same conditions and golfers still can enjoy the game and make plenty of putts. After all, Tom Watson once shot a 58 when playing at Kansas City Country Club just a few days after the greens had been aerified.

Adam Moeller is an agronomist in the Northeast Region.