Message from the President on Summer Transition and Aerification
Let’s begin with aerification – a necessary and highly beneficial golf course practice.
Aerification achieves three important objectives.
- It relieves soil compaction.
- It provides a method to improve the soil mixture.
- It reduces or prevents the accumulation of excess thatch.
The condition of the turf has a lot to do with what goes on below the surface. Good roots demand oxygen. In good soil, they get the oxygen from tiny pockets of air trapped between soil and sand particles. Take a moment to read the USGA Agronomist 2020 Report which identifies the super job our Maintenance staff has done over the years to keep our fairways, greens and tees healthy.
Over time, the traffic from golf carts and maintenance equipment tend to compact the soil under the surface. When soil becomes compacted, the air pockets on which the roots depend are crushed, and the roots are essentially left gasping for air. David Escobedo, Superintendent and Jose Murillo, Assistant Superintendent keep a close eye on this. When they see it coming they don’t hesitate to remove cores (plugs) from the compacted soil, allowing for an infusion of air and water that brings a resurgence of growth. The spaces are then filled with sand “top dressing” that helps the soil retain air space and makes it easier for roots to grow downward. There is no season or time frame of which this process is put into place. When compaction begins, so does the Maintenance team.
Aerification is the main reason we require only 2 carts per tee time. To keep everyone safe during COVID-19 we have fallen to the solo cart rule. But by so doing we have increased the speed of compaction and need for aerification.
Now let’s move on to summer transitioning. The Lakes course does not require the same level of summer transition as does the Vistas because the “well” prevented us from over seeding this year. There will still be some for we did over seed tee boxes and green surrounds. The summer transition usually falls in May and June. The window is weather driven – big time. Those days of cool beautiful golf weather put David in a spin for that darn bermuda grass requires hot, humid weather to grow fast. Like most of us that live here in Arizona, it does not like cold temps. And to bermuda grass cold starts at below 65 degrees. Bermuda is happiest between 95 and 100 degrees.
Typically, the summer transition process is all about growing healthy bermuda with as little competition from the rye grass as possible. Therefore herbicides are used to kill off the rye. Once you kill off the rye and with the right temps, the bermuda will fill in quickly. Golfers get a little concerned with the lack of grass but this is part of the process. Oh! and this process requires a lot of water – a lot of water.
The maintenance crew will also remove organic material from the fairways. This process pulls plugs of soil from the ground, and removes the organic material along with the soil plugs. Organic material removal takes time so golfers might lose a couple of days on the golf course. Our team creates and adjusts to the maintenance schedule as needed. On those days golf is limited to one course or the other it is not to irritate anyone. On the contrary it is the process for long term beautiful and healthy golf courses. David provided an update on how well the Vistas GC summer transitioning is going on May 29.
Here is David’s response on the relationship between aerification and summer transitioning.
“This year the Lakes GC will not need summer transitioning, meaning no herbicide, no extra water, no thin areas in the fairways as one grass checks out while the other fills in. Aerification is not part of that equation. Aerification is done to alleviate 11 months of cart and mower traffic. The soil underneath the grass is becoming concrete. Fairway aerification is done every year whether we over seed or not. Without it the grass becomes weak and water does not penetrate well into the soil. With all the extra carts on the fairways and with the more members/golfers we have, we may need to do another fairway aerification in late August or early September in order to assure the soil is prepared for the extra water needed for over seeding in October.
The aerification process was used at Vistas GC to assist in getting water into the root zone which helped tremendously to transition the Vistas GC faster than we have experienced before.”
So there you have it. A little bit of a maintenance perspective! Hope you have learned a little bit more from the behind the scenes of teeing up on a beautiful day with great friends! I know I have.
Jill Riedel, President