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Why golf courses aerate greens

You walk to the first green and all of a sudden notice holes punched all over the green.  You might think it’s a major nuisance, which as you play it may be, but they need it more than you realize. Providing optimal playing conditions during prolonged period of drought or rain dictate mowing schedules, grass heights and patterns, application of pesticides and yes, aeration. This article is to help golfers understand just why golf courses need to endure the maintenance they get for what seems to be too much of the year.

Let’s define aeration. Aeration is the process by which holes are put into the greens to allow for (air) to be able to get into the soil beneath the green.  Aeration is needed when the soil beneath the surface of the green becomes compacted. When the soil is compacted, the grass roots struggle to breathe. Think about how many footsteps are on any given green at a golf course. The average golfer will take about 45 steps on any green. So to get a number of steps on a green any given day, we need to multiply 45 times the foursome that is playing in that group. That makes 180 steps per foursome. Now, multiply 180 times the number of foursomes that play on that course per day (in season, 130). That is 23,400 steps per day on each green. To the extreme, multiply that, times the days in the year, 365. Now think about all of the equipment that is used in maintaining the greens throughout the year. Some of these pieces of machinery can weigh over a half ton. Run a mower over a green 180 times a year and that is an additional 180,000 pounds of compression per year. Compacted? I would say so. It’s a wonder that the greens even survive as long as they do.
            If aeration is not performed on the greens, numerous things could happen to them; and not in a good way. Worst of all, the greens could die. Then there is no reason to have a golf course, really. Secondly, as the soil becomes compacted, the beneficial grasses, such as bent and Bermuda varieties, are the first to go and Poa Annua takes over because it can tolerate lower soil oxygen levels. Poa Annua is a weed. Who wants to putt on weeds?
            As ironic as it could be, the best time for aeration is when the grasses are at their strongest. This is also when we, the golfers, love the greens the most. When the grasses are at their strongest is also when they are able to heal at the fastest they can. This only makes sense. If you could not heal a broken leg in the winter, then why break it in the winter?  This is just one of the many maintenance practices employed by the course superintendent to improve the quality of a golf course. It is also the most despised by golfers. While this activity of maintenance is undertaken at times to cause the least possible delay, it is nonetheless crucial to protecting the golf course.

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