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Don’t Fall Behind, Plan Ahead, USGA Green Section Update

Elliott L. Dowling | Published on 2/6/2024
By:Elliott L. Dowling, regional director, East Region

Topdressing followed by solid-tine aeration is an effective method to move sand into the profile with less disruption than traditional core aeration.

Although your course might be under snow, the golf season is quickly approaching. There is still time to evaluate your cultivation practices for the upcoming season and think about how you balance cultivation with variable weather, staff size and availability, and golfer expectations.

In case you missed it, I wrote an article last year focusing on less-aggressive cultivation techniques to manage organic matter with less disruption to play. This topic has been discussed so often on Course Consulting Service visits that my colleagues and I presented a sold-out seminar about it at the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in Phoenix.

Spring aeration in particular is discussed more now – especially with the cool, wet springs the Northeast has experienced recently. Either golfers return from somewhere warmer and want to keep playing on courses in nearly prime condition, or they are excited to get the season started after a long winter and don’t want any course disruptions. While we all understand that some form of cultivation and topdressing is often necessary in the spring to prepare surfaces for the upcoming season, it doesn’t mean that what you have always done is still the best thing to do.

For example, rather than pulling a large core in early April and being at the mercy of Mother Nature for recovery, perhaps pull a micro-tine once in April and once again in May. The much smaller tines will close in a matter of days through regular mowing and/or rolling and are minimally disruptive to play.

Another approach is to reconsider the timing. If you are one of the many superintendents who has made the comment to me that they aerate April 1 and the greens don’t fully recover until mid-to-late May, perhaps aerating in mid-May is a better approach. The goal is to aerate the surface when grass is actively growing for the quickest recovery; the benefit is fewer questions about when the greens will be back to normal.

Next time you are sitting at your desk thinking about the upcoming season, carefully consider your cultivation plans and ask yourself: Is your program accomplishing the goal of organic matter management while optimizing playability for as much of the year as possible? If the answer is no, it may be time to make some adjustments.

Northeast Region Agronomists

Darin Bevard, senior director, Championship Agronomy –

Elliott L. Dowling, regional director, East Region –

Brian Gietka, agronomist –

Information on the USGA’s Course Consulting Service

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(616) 834-0450