May 22, 2012

Giving The Greens Some Love

We aerated all the greens and approaches on the golf course on Tuesday, making for a very long day for everyone on the maintenance staff.  My day at the course began a little after 4:00am and didn't conclude until around 6:30 in the evening.  The process of aeration involves a lot of planning and coordination, and I would just assume do it for one long day, rather than try and drag it out and keep the process going for a second day. 

The greens were punched with our Vertidrain machine on the back of the Bobcat tractor.  Solid 1/2" tines on 3" x 3" spacing were penetrated about 7" deep into the greens.  This depth goes well into the original soil of the greens they were built on in the 1960's out of clay and topsoil.  After 40+ years of aeration and topdressing, there is now anywhere from about 3"-4" of sand on top of that original soil, but it is important for us to penetrate and make sand pathways down into the old soil for roots to be able to grow deeper. 

We were also able to rent a very nice Toro 648 Procore machine from the Fargo Country Club for the day in order to pull cores out of the approaches and collars.  These areas, especially the approaches, are in desperate need of some dethatching due to the fact that I don't believe they have ever been aerated or topdressed since they were also built back in the 60's.  Similar to our tees, the bentgrass on the approaches has been growing uncontrolled for 40+ years, accumulating an immense amount of soft, puffy thatch in some spots.  This causes the approaches to be very wet sometimes, and doesn't provide a very firm surface for bouncing and running shots into the greens.  We started pulling cores and topdressing sand into the approaches last fall, so this was essentially round 2.  Every little bit will slowly help to firm the approaches, but it is going to take a couple of years to really make much of a significant difference. 

All told, if my math is correct, we punched approximately 2.5 million holes in the greens and approaches, and then topdressed and filled the holes with 130,000 pounds (65 tons) of sand.

Pulling cores out of 9 approach

Cleaning up the cores is still fastest the old fashioned way
with some shovels and sweat.

Sand hauling center

Sand transfer:  the big unit hauls the sand around the course, the
smaller unit is what we use to actually spread the sand on the greens.

Topdressing 4 green.

There were a few variables in this process however as we needed to treat a few greens a bit differently.  On holes 7, 8, and 17 we pulled the cores out of the greens as well as the approaches.  This was done specifically to these three greens because of their tendency to flood the worst, the sand profile is full of layers of silt thoughout it.  Much like the rings on a tree, the different layers of silt underneath these greens is like looking back through time at all of the floods the course has experienced.  These layers of silt greatly reduce the amount of water, air and roots that can penetrate into the green.  Pulling out the cores, therefore removing some of the silt and filling the holes with clean sand, will provide a better pathway for air and water to reach the roots.

Lasty, we pulled 6" deep cores out of the putting green.  This is a newly constructed green, but was built with 12"-14" of an extremely coarse, horrible sand for building a green on.  The coarse sand allows all water and nutrients to pass straight through it, essentially bypassing the roots all together.  After pulling the cores, we topdressed into the holes with a sand that we use on the rest of the greens, which meets the USGA specifications for putting green sand particle size analysis.  This sand is also custom blended with 20% of an organic peat material that will greatly enhance the ability of the sand to hold water and nutrients.  In fact, I made the decision this spring to use a sand on all the greens that is comprised of 10% of this peat material, which should help the greens stay a little healthier through the heat of the summer.

Amazingly, one of the best sources and vendors in the country of organic peat enhancers for golf course putting green sand is right here in Grand Forks!  They sell and blend sands for golf courses all over the country, check them out

Pulling and cleaning cores from the putting green

Three sands:  On the left is the coarse sand we pulled out of the putting green.  In the middle, the straight USGA
spec sand we use on the approaches.  On the right, is the same sand as in the middle, mixed with 10% peat.

Custom mixing an 80% sand 20% peat mixture in the sand shed
to fill the holes in the putting green with.

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