Thursday, February 23, 2012

Aeration time and an early spring?

Well, to say the weather has been a little unusual is an understatement.  But how wonderful that this time we’re not talking about 30” of snow, but some great above-average temperatures that have provided a LOT of winter golf opportunities!  With spring aeration time right around the corner (link to aeration schedule below), I thought it would be a good time to talk about what’s going on with the turf during a mild winter like this.
This is the latest 1-month outlook from NOAA.  The trend continues!

Holy traffic, Batman! 

One of the biggest challenges to a busy winter golf season is the amount of traffic we see on the courses.  While the unseasonable temperatures have provided some much needed golf weather after a very wet September and October last year, our golf courses are seeing the toll that traffic takes on the grass when there is no ability for it to grow and heal itself.  This comes most notably in the form of hundreds of ball marks on every green, and very heavy wear on areas at the entry and exit points to cart paths around greens and tees.  Tee boxes themselves are beat up, but most of our courses have purposely left the tee markers place for the winter without moving them, so there we minimize the amount of area that is bare and needs to be seeded in the spring.  Ultimately this allows us to provide improved teeing areas when the spring does arrive and the grass starts growing again.

Root growth bonus!

6 inch roots in February makes a superintendent happy!
Turf all around the golf courses typically sees roughly zero root development in the winter, but this year, again, is a little different!  These temperatures have allowed the soil to warm up a little more ahead of schedule and we are ahead of the game with root growth.  This is great news if you’re a turf junkie, because spring root growth is INCREDIBLY important to the turf’s ability to withstand the incredible summer stress we see in this area.  Our superintendents, just like all you golfers out there itching to hit the links, are hoping for some nice, dry weather so we can be as productive as possible getting the courses cleaned up and back in shape for the spring.  Dry weather in the spring and fall is crucial for root growth because it makes the plants search for water.  If it stays wet, roots have no reason to grow and with short roots, it is a very long, labor-intensive summer for turf management.

Aeration time!

The most important cultural practice that is performed at our facilities is core aeration, and I could literally wear out the keyboard discussing the benefits of this process!  The process of aeration and recovery is very stressful both physically and mentally for our staff, because we take such pride if maintaining great conditions for you!  But this temporary disruption to our playing surfaces is what helps the turf remain healthy throughout the year and is very important!  So what exactly is so great about removing all these plugs of soil from your beautiful golf course?
  • Improved root growth
  •  Improved gas exchange (oxygen to the root zone and actual air movement underground!)
  • Decreased thatch and organic matter that can hold excess water (bad for root development and increases disease pressure and insect problems)
  • Incorporation of pure sand in greens to keep these important channels open (tremendous root growth in these holes!) as well as firm the playing surface
  • Alleviates compaction caused by foot and vehicle traffic
  •  Improved water infiltration
  • Improved microbial activity (healthy microbes help the soil environment function better)
  • And the list goes on!
Superintendents LOVE this!
So when exactly will our courses be aerating?  Find our aeration schedule HERE.  On the date of aeration, the areas mentioned (front 9/back 9) will be closed for the day.  Course-specific announcements (such as opening aeration day at 1:00 for example) will be made via our Facebook page and Twitter feed.  We have selected aeration dates that work best for the specific needs of the course based on types of grass and environmental conditions, as well as trying to work around major events and outings that are already scheduled.

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