The fall season is a very busy time on the golf course at NSCC. Both golfers and golf course maintenance personnel attempt to squeeze as much as possible out of the beautiful days that autumn brings our way. Each fall, the golf course maintenance staff begins to prepare the course for the upcoming season. As golf course managers, we put into place many agronomic practices which afford the golf course the necessary inputs to recover from summer stresses, repair damaged soil conditions, and reduce the potential from turf loss and damage over the long Wisconsin winter. Each area of the golf course has a comprehensive plan which includes, but is not limited to nutrition (fertilizer), aerification, and pest control.
We are currently in the process of addressing these needs on all areas of the golf course, while at the same time performing the required maintenance practices for daily play. One of the most time consuming turf areas to manage are the golf course fairways. Other than the rough, the fairways are the largest surface area we manage, totalling more than 44 acres.
The most important aspect of fall fairway maintenance is fall aerification. Prior to 2008, all fairways were core aerified. This process involved removing soil cores, drying the cores, pulverizing the cores, dragging the fragmented cores back into the holes, and then blowing off the remaining debris. This process did a wonderful job of alleviating soil compaction and reducing the amount of thatch, the organic layer just below the turf canopy, but was messy and impeded play for a considerable amount of time following, especially during wet conditions.
In 2008, we modified our fairway aerification procedure to a solid tine process. This process works well, by allowing us to penetrate 4 inches deeper into the soil than we were able to. The solid tine approach also serves to lessen the negative affect aerification has on the overall golfing experience. The downside to the solid tine aerication is its inability to reduce thatch. Excess thatch may lead to multiple problems in the future which include increased disease prevalence, mower scalping, and overall weaker turf. In order to address these concerns, we have proactively implemented an aggressive fairway verticutting practice. The tractor-mounted vertical mower uses multiple cutting disks to slice into the turf and remove a considerable amount of the organic material. While the process itself is messy, it is relatively simple and easy to clean up. The picture above illustrates the process in action. Once the organic debris is brought to the surface, it is blown off and collected. The fairway is never taken out of play and our goal of reducing organic matter has been accomplished. In summary, instead of pulling solid, clay cores from our fairways, our aerification process is now two-fold. The fairways are punched with solid tines to alleviate soil compaction and verticut to remove organic matter, both processes present less disruption to play while meeting our agronomic goals.