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Do Those Dots on the Greens Affect Ball Roll? USGA Central Update

Zach Nicoludis | Published on 8/7/2023
Zach Nicoludis, regional director, Central Region

Greener turf in old aeration holes is often visible during the summer, but our data shows that ball roll is not impacted by this visual pattern. 

After aeration is performed, putting greens usually recover fully in just a few weeks. Ball roll goes back to normal and the discussions around why aeration needs to be performed can be put on hold until the next go-around. However, it is common for dots of greener turf to remain visible where the aeration holes were, especially during stressful summer weather. While conducting USGA Course Consulting Service visits, discussions often take place about why this happens and if it impacts ball roll.

Aeration is performed to reduce compaction, manage organic matter, and improve the rootzone physical properties in such a way that air- and water-holding porosities are more balanced – all of which contribute to improved turf health and better playing conditions. During stressful summer weather, the improved soil physical properties in the former aeration holes can result in small circles of healthier and greener turf that become more visible as the other turf shows signs of stress. If minimal amounts of nutrients are being applied to maximize putting green performance, the green dots may stand out even more.

If you watch a ball roll across a putting green where these aeration hole patterns are visible you probably won’t see any disruption, but obviously our eyes can deceive us. During a recent course consulting visit, I used the USGA’s innovative new GS3 tool to measure putting green smoothness and trueness where greener turf in aeration holes was visible and the data collected was in line with high-performing putting greens where aeration holes are not visible.

Maximizing putting green performance is not about aesthetics, it’s about results. Greener turf in old aeration holes may give the perception that ball roll is impacted but the data shows this is not the case. For more information on the GS3 or other ways data collection can be used to guide decisions and communicate with golfers and stakeholders, reach out to your regional agronomist.

Central Region Agronomists:

Zach Nicoludis, regional director –

Paul Jacobs, agronomist –

Information on the USGA’s Course Consulting Service
Contact the Green Section Staff

(616) 834-0450