Aerification Improvement Began with Employees
Golf course greens aerification relieves soil compaction, reduces thatch and improves soil composition. Since greens are cut so short, a healthy root system is imperative to maintaining healthy turf. The aerification process creates a means of transporting water, air and nutrients to the roots which promotes healthy turf. Although necessary, golf course aerification is a tedious task for the Operations staff and presents a number of potential complications. This past fall, with employee input, two of the courses changed the traditional aerification practice of early morning start times.
In 2011, the crew at Miami Whitewater Forest presented a plan for afternoon aerification to maximize the day-length and sand drying potential. Park Manager Carolyn Pottschmidt and Golf Pro Harry Alexander worked through logistics on making the process mutually beneficial to both the golfers and the crew. It was decided to begin a trial process on a Sunday afternoon, following play on the back 9. It meant bringing in several maintenance crew members on their normal time off, but they were willing and eager to be part of a possible new program. The trial run began on Sunday with a six-member crew and finished by Tuesday during working hours.
In 2012, Miami Whitewater Forest adopted the afternoon aerification practice in earnest. After identifying times to least impact golf play, it was determined that crews could follow play on the front 9 starting in the late morning, so that the normal Monday morning golfers could play their usual 18 holes. Evening golfers played the other 9 twice, or came through after the greens were finished.
At The Vineyard, the aerification procedure was to come in at 3 am and verticut the greens, blow off the debris, mow and then aerify. Once this was complete, plugs were picked up with the core harvester and top-dressed with sand. When the sand dried, it was drug into the holes with a brush; with the intention to completely fill the holes with sand.
This past fall, aerification at The Vineyard began on a Sunday evening. Tee times were blocked off and the Woodland Mound crew worked from 3 pm to 8 pm to get a head-start on the process. Aerification was completed by early Monday afternoon, just in time for the rain to beat the sand into the turf canopy.
Overall, the weather cooperated and the program went very well, resulting in many benefits:
– Process went much quicker due to minimized drying times, less injury to turf.
– Less labor/equipment hours; schedules adjusted without interrupting routines.
– More sand used than in the past, meaning that holes were filled to capacity.
– Golf play was only minimally impacted.
The greens will be in great shape this spring, due in large part to the improved aerification programs last fall. Staff input and willingness to adjust schedules, try something new, and improve a program led to successes at these courses. Processes were easier, results were better, and costs were minimized – all because of employees’ desire to improve the results and extend the Park District’s resources.
Jackie O’Connell, Operations Superintendent