One of our biggest projects this winter has been to renovate the greenside bunkers at #13, #15, #16, #17, & #18. We are incorporating a new technology, Capillary Concrete, into the bunkers. Capillary Concrete is a porous product that percolates at over 80 inches an hour. We lined the bunker floors with it to reduce washouts and keep silt out of the sand. This will extend the life of the bunker and improve playability, while decreasing maintenance costs. Our goal is to complete the back nine greenside bunkers this fall and the front nine greenside bunkers next year.
Clearing The Hillside
The biggest visual change we made to the course this winter was to clear the hillside between #15 and the creek, returning it back to its cleaner appearance from the Club's early days. Cleaning out the underbrush will accomplish a few things . . . first, it opens up a lot of sight lines across the course and, second, it increases air flow to #14 and #15 that should reduce disease pressure and increase turf health. Once the weather reaches the appropriate temperatures, we will Hydro-seed the hillside in a fine fescue dunes mix. We will maintain the area as a naturalized area with the hazard line still at the top of the hill. Even though we call this a naturalized area it is not a maintenance free area. To keep this area clean of weeds and to keep the honeysuckle and wild locust trees from re-establishing, we will need to go in and bush hog the hillside once or twice a year.
Over the last few years, we have lost several trees. We have lost some to disease, some to age, and others to the Emerald Ash Borer. This winter we planted three large White Pine trees along the road at #3 to replace the two Honeylocust trees that died. A few years ago, while working with our golf course architect, we developed a tree master plan that we have been following for any removals or plantings.
Keeping the par 3 tees covered this winter has made a huge difference in turf quality leading into this season. In November, we filled all of the divots with a seed mix and then put the covers over the tees. The covers accomplished two things . . . first, they have a greenhouse effect - raising the soil temperature by over 10 degrees. This enabled the seed to germinate during the winter giving us a head start on divot recovery. Second, it reduced any additional divots during the winter months.
Last fall we started a program to expand our naturalized areas on the course. With the help of our USGA agronomist and the course architect we added several areas around the course to evaluate. Over the winter we have identified a few areas that need to be reduced in size or eliminated, we already mowed down the area along the creek on the front drive and adjusted a few others around the course. Please be patient as we continue to evaluate and work our way through the establishment of theses areas.
As spring approaches and the weather is beginning to break, it won’t be long before the course is full of golfers, but, before you can fully enjoy the course there are some very important practices we as a staff need to perform. Namely, aerification. I know aerification is the most disruptive practice we perform on the golf course and probably the most hated by golfers. So this begs the question “Why do we aerify greens?” Aerification is unquestionably the most important cultural practice we perform to the greens to keep them performing the way we would like: firm, fast, and smooth. There are four main reasons why we aerify: 1) To relieve soil compaction; 2) To modify the root zone; 3) The management of thatch, or the removal of organic matter; 4) Surface smoothing.
The compaction of the root zone is caused by traffic from golfers and turf equipment. This compaction seals off the surface of the green, cutting off the natural exchange of atmospheric gases between the root zone and the atmosphere. Aerification will open up the surface allowing the carbon dioxide that has built up from the decomposition of organic matter to be replaced with oxygen from the atmosphere. This will result in a stronger, deeper, and healthier root system. Relieving compaction will also allow for better water movement down through the soil profile.
Over time, a layer of organic matter (thatch) and fine particles (silt) will naturally build up on the surface of the greens reducing the porosity of the soil. Through aerification, along with topdressing to fill the channels, we can remove this layer and modify the soil with clean sand and other soil amendments, thus improving oxygen and water into the soil resulting in better rooting.
REMOVAL OF ORGANIC MATTER
Control of organic matter (thatch) is probably our number one goal in greens aerification. If not controlled, thatch can severely compromise the overall health of the greens by forming a layer that will be spongy in nature, and eventually lead to water movement problems which can increase susceptibility to disease and insect problems. The spongy nature of excessive thatch also drastically reduces playability and putting quality of the greens.
Aerification and topdressing will smooth the surface of the green much more effectively then topdressing alone. The removal of plugs, along with the topdressing, over time, will fill in the low spots and soften the high spots, resulting in a much truer putting surface.
As you can see there are several reasons why we aerify greens. These same reasons hold true for the tees, fairways, and rough - only on a different scale. As a staff, we always do our best to complete this practice in the most efficient way possible, minimizing the disruption of play for the golfer. I hope this has answered most of your questions about aerification and clarified why this is a necessary practice. I look forward to seeing everyone out on the course soon.