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Putting Surface Aerification and Recovery

Written by Chris Tritabaugh on Jun 8, 2017 10:05:30 AM


Post aerification June 8th.jpg

In what has now been 10+ years as a golf course superintendent, I’ve performed a scheduled aerification of putting surfaces on 30 or so occasions. Every time the course opens back up, the clock begins to tick. With each passing week, comments from members are a little different. 

Week 1-the general theme is; “wow greens came through in great shape!” Week 2-the general theme is; “greens are coming along, when do expect they’ll be healed?” Week 3-“what’s wrong with the greens?”

 I mean for this to be humorous, but averaging out over 30+ incidents of aerification, themes do tend to identify themselves. Before I get into the healing of the putting surfaces, I think it is important to note the three basic goals I have for the management of Hazeltine’s putting surfaces.  

  1. Provide the membership with a consistently excellent product.
  2. Maintain surfaces at or very near 100% bentgrass.
  3. Maintain the integrity and performance of the USGA construction system.

When it comes to putting surface aerification, all sorts of differing methods have been performed during my time as a superintendent. Over 10 years, I’ve almost never chosen the same method two times in a row. Aerification is a tool superintendents use to achieve the results they desire. In our case, the desired results are the three goals listed above. As I have learned the putting surfaces, and the desires of the membership here at Hazeltine, the tools I’ve chosen to achieve the above results have evolved. Our aerification methods have also evolved and the quality of the putting surfaces has improved.

When used as a tool, aerification can help one achieve our three goals. However, when the goal becomes "heal the greens as quickly as possible," one can easily undo all potential achievements. It would be very easy for me to heal the aerification holes in very short order, thus avoiding the questions of “when will they heal?” Apply enough fertilizer and the putting surface turf will grow like crazy and BANG-the holes are healed. However, do that and our three goals are compromised; definitely in the short-term, and potentially in the long-term. Inevitably leading to a different question; “how come they’re so slow?”

With our three goals in mind, I’m always thinking about how to make our putting surfaces better. Anytime we perform maintenance on our surfaces, I take a long, hard look at what achievements have been made. Did this process improve our surfaces? Are they better now than they were before? Whether the answer is yes or no, you can be certain my thoughts will always be directed toward providing the Hazeltine membership with the very best putting surfaces possible. At this point in time, I feel comfortable saying the three goals above are being achieved.

A few updates from around the course:

After seemingly endless rain last fall and early this spring, the spigot has been turned off. Combined with this dry weather is unusual warmth. This puts the turfgrass staff into a different mode of action. When the weather is this dry and the temps this warm, we end up spending a great deal of time and effort tending to watering needs. As you play, you'll notice our staff around the course doing a lot of handwatering. The ability to control when and where we put water on the course allows playing conditions to be dialed in very nicely. Golf course playing conditions are typically at their very best during periods of dry weather. A few things to note, with this change in weather:

When Turf Staff is Working in Front of You

If our staff is working in front of you, please make sure they have acknowledged your presence, or moved out of the way before you hit shots in their direction. I so often see situations in which golfers assume the staff sees them and go ahead and hit. This is extremely dangerous to our employees. We in turn instruct our employees to be highly aware of golfers and either move out of the way, or acknowledge they see you and wave for you to hit. 

When Turf Staff is Working on the Putting Surface

If a turfgrass staff member is working on the putting surface, we ask them to remove the flagstick. When the flagstick is removed, this is an indication for golfers not to hit to the putting surface. In April I had the great fortune to work with the turfgrass team at the Masters. In the afternoons, I was stationed on 10 green and would blow or remove debris as directed by the rules officials. When we were out on the putting surface, the official would remove the flagstick as an indication for the players not to hit towards the green. 

A Note on Course Colors

9 from clubhouse-June 2017.jpgWith warm dry weather comes a change in the appearance of the golf course. The deep greens of spring are replaced by more tawny hues. Rest assurned this is completely normal and does not mean the course is in poor shape. When we get some rain, you'll see the course hues move back toward the green end of the spectrum very quickly.  

As always, should you have questions or comments on any of these subjects; please feel free to contact me.

Chris Tritabaugh

Golf Course Superintendent