Fairway Update 8/13/2019
History of why we aerify when we do: The ideal aerification window in our climate is August 20th to September 20th. This is also obviously a very popular golf window and perhaps the best playing conditions of the season. When this course opened, aerification took place within that window and hampered course conditions for all of September. 15 years ago we were asked to schedule our aerifications outside of the entire open golf season, basically outside of May 5th to October 15th. We’ve tried to do the bulk of our aerifying in the Fall after the course closes to maximize this late season golf and get a jumpstart on Spring healing. Neither Spring nor Fall usually have enough nice weather to accomplish all aerifying without impeding on early or late golf. Whatever we haven’t been able to aerify in the Fall, we usually try to finish in the Spring. Spring is usually very moist and these aerifications can take longer to complete; or we completely abandon them and look to the Fall to finish.
How our fairways became damaged: Fairways 1-11 were aerified after the course closed in late October. We were quickly shutout by poor weather and were unable to work sand into any of the aerification holes. Not an uncommon occurrence for us. Unfortunately, we did not receive snow cover until much later, mid-December. By then, we had several weeks of very cold nights where frozen air infiltrated the aerification holes and damaged the roots.
The really unfortunate part is that the plant looked completely normal after snow melt. It eventually received snow cover and went dormant under the insulation. When the turfgrass broke dormancy in the Spring, it became clear that the plant was severely damaged. Doubly bad for hole #8, which we aerified two directions with the resultant twice as many holes. Add into that our Poa Annua control chemicals, a cold Spring and even a cool and wet June and July and these fairway conditions are what we are left with.
The recovery has three phases:
1. Getting out of Chemical Inhibition. These Poa Annua chemicals have a 4-5 month residual. That means they will begin to release their inhibition on the Kentucky Bluegrass during this month and next month. On normal years, we would spray again in September, thus keeping any Poa Annua from germinating throughout the winter and then we would Spray again in April and so on, as we’ve been doing for years. This Fall, there will be no re-application.
2. Turf Health Recovery. We’ve been loading the plant and the soil with abundant fertility. As inhibition wears off, these plants are going to grow. And when they start to grow really well, we’re not going to mess with them. No Poa chemicals, no aerification. Only mowing, fertility and water. #8 fairway will need additional help through reseeding that will occur this September. Fungicides will be applied as usual in late October to the entire golf course and then we’ll send it into winter with as much health and the largest carbohydrate stores possible.
3. Return To Normal. In the Spring, we aerify as usual. As long as the turfgrass is healthy, we need to resume aerification to continue to provide a hospitable environment for root development. Everything will recover and be better and return to normal.
We cancelled greens aerification last Fall due to weather, essentially saving our greens from suffering the same fate as our fairways. We will be exploring a different technique called ‘dryject aerification’ for this Fall. This process is contracted out and fills the aerification holes with dry material as the holes are made.