Twice a year, golfers have to deal with the dreaded punching and sanding of putting greens. Every golfer’s nightmare is to show up and be told the greens are aerated. Putting is the most important part of golf! If play is hindered so dramatically by this maintenance practice, why is it done? The short answer is that is keeps the greens healthy. The long answer offers a better understanding of golf course maintenance in general and helps ease the pain of seeing everyone’s beloved greens treated in a way that seems harsh and unfriendly.
Greens see a lot of foot traffic. I mean A LOT. Just think of it. Of the entire golf course, where is the one place everyone is trying to get to? You guessed it, the green. And with roughly 150 to 200 people walking on every green, every day for a year, greens see a lot of wear and tear. The soil becomes compacted and hard. The grass roots have less room in which to grow. All of the nutrients that grass needs (water, nitrogen, and energy from the sun) has a harder time of getting down into the soil to the roots. This lack of nutrients leads to unhealthy grass that is infected with fungus and weeds and other unwanted organisms.
Thankfully, we have a way to prevent that nasty mess. Aeration! The most common way to aerate greens is through core aeration, which removes 3”-5” cores from the ground. The holes left behind by coring are then filled with a topdressing comprised of sand or soil which works its way down to loosen the soil. Sand in the soil helps air and water get down into the roots and gives the roots more room to grow, which leads to happy, healthy greens. And it only takes about 2 weeks for greens to recover from this practice.
So while punching and sanding greens inconveniences golfers twice a year for a couple of weeks, overall it allows us avid golfers to play the wonderful game of golf year round on greens that are healthy.