NSCC's fairway topdressing program is a critical piece to the overall management of our fairway turf. The program began in 2008 and was discontinued from 2009-2011 during the economic downturn for budgetary reasons. The application of sand, when partnered with solid-tine aerification and aggressive vertical mowing, will greatly improve the playability of the fairways. While the traditionally used core aerifcation allowed us to manage the thatch level of the fairways and alleviate compaction, it did nothing to improve soil conditions.
Since NSCC rests on poorly drained, heavy clay soils, managing turfgrass moisture is very challenging. As most members can attest, the fairways are very soft when wet allowing for minimal ball roll and increased disease pressure. When the fairways become dry, they have the consistency of a terracotta pot. Managing a high quality playing surface under these extremes can be nearly possible at times.
Fairway topdressing allows us to modify the underlying soil profile through the introduction of sand. As the sand accumulates over the years, the fairways will become increasingly firm with improved drainage. Golfers will easily recognize the improved ball roll, consistent lies, and increased cart usage following rain events. The reduction of thatch and improved drainage will reduce disease pressure, allow us to better manage moisture, and provide a higher quality playing surface to the membership.
Consistency and patience are the key to a successful fairway topdressing program. In its first full year, the program has accumulated over .25" of sand on all the fairways. At this rate, the fairways will be growing on two inches of sand in seven more years. Due to the duration of time needed to reach this goal, most golfers will not notice an immediate change, but each year the playability of the fairways will continue to improve.