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The Importance of Aeration

And the incredible process of Sand Injection

You will hardly even notice...

Seen above: traditional aeration

Tis once again the season for that dreaded word... Aeration!

Golfers cringe when they try to squeeze in a few quality rounds before winter golf hibernation. Many players find it frustrating when their efforts are thwarted. Courses offer discounted rates to retain their golfers for the short-term. 

Many golfers feel negative emotions when they hear the word "aeration".  As it may surprise you, golf course superintendents are also against aeration; but it is necessary. After all, the superintendent is the last person to disturb the smoothness of the greens they have worked so hard to maintain.

Many golfers ask "Why is  aeration necessary?"

 Aeration is primarily used to remove soil compaction, promote root growth, and improve drainage. Organic matter that is too dense will act as a sponge, holding water at the surface. Excessive organic matter can also hinder root growth, decrease soil oxygen levels, promote disease, and ultimately lead to turf failure. Additionally, excessive organic matter can cause soft surfaces that are prone to footprinting, ball marks and other irregularities. Topdressing and aeration are the best ways to manage organic matter and keep putting surfaces firm and smooth.

Core aeration is the most popular type of aeration. It involves physically removing soil cores (e.g. cores measuring 0.5 inches in diameter) from the turf. Aeration holes allow for excess moisture to evaporate and encourage gas exchange in soil. This results in stronger root systems and turf which is more tolerant to golfer traffic.

The timing of aeration is critical to ensure the fastest recovery and smoothest return to normal surface conditions. Aeration should be performed when the turf is actively growing and healthy. This will ensure a rapid recovery. Core Cultivation and How to Avoid Core Aeration provide more information on the timing of aeration. 

Superintendents can use many different types of aeration throughout the season. Some are more labour-intensive or less disruptive to playing surfaces than others. Venting aeration using small-diameter solid tines can also be beneficial as they can reduce turf stress and increase soil oxygen. Aeration programs with a minimal impact on the playing surface can generally be carried out throughout the season without any disruption to play.

Course-specific requirements dictate the type and frequency of aeration. Aeration programs are adjusted by superintendents based on soil conditions and turf requirements, climate/weather as well as available labour and equipment.


Sand Injection

The alternative to traditional aeration.

Seen above: Sand Injection by Dol Turf

At Dol Turf, we offer a special process known as Sand Injection. Sand Injection is fundamentally similar to regular aeration, with the key difference being that Sand Injection uses a pressurized water system to inject the aeration holes with compact sand in real time, as the holes are being punched.

This in turn offers two main benefits:

1. A much quicker and more efficient process

2. A flatter surface that heals more quickly

In the process of regular aeration, the surface must be top dressed with sand to fill the holes. The issue is that sand will begin to sink forming an uneven playing surface. It is the uneven putting surface that golfers and superintendents hate to see, and so this traditional method requires a secondary top dressing usually 1 or 2 days after the initial aeration to properly fill the holes. With sand injection, the greens are ready to go the moment they are finished. While the surface may not be perfect, as it will take some time for the roots to grow into the new material, Sand injection leaves behind a much more playable putting green with much less hassle for the superintendent

In the long term, although aeration and sand injection both can cause short term disruption, the long-term benefits far outweigh any inconvenience.

Remember that greens that have been recently aerated are maintained for long-term health. Although the greens might not be as sharp immediately after aeration, everyone can still enjoy the game and putt well; after all Tom Watson shot a 58 at Kansas City Country Club just a few days after greens were aerated. Let that sink in for a moment...