With fall comes aerification of the greens. My home course, Green Oaks, is undergoing the process now. So are most others. I just got an email that Forest Dunes will be closed for a couple of days at the end of the month for the procedure.
Aerification is annoying, but necessary, and ultimately produces better greens.
The process is designed to improve water and air flow into the soil, remove thatch and relieve compaction.
By removing plugs and replacing them with a sand mix, aerification allows a better flow of air and water into the soil. This is critical for root growth.
Aerification also removes layers of dead organic material, replacing it with clean sand. If thatch builds up, the grass become susceptible to diseases and standing water. Good greenskeeping practice recommends removing 20% of the surface area each year.
Soil compaction occurs over a season from footsteps, mowing and rolling equipment. Compacted soil works against the roots by starving them of oxygen and the room to grow. Contrary to what many golfers think, compaction is often cited as the least important of the three reasons for aerification.
As a player, I compensate for aerification in several ways. First, I break the rules by moving the ball off the hole it settles in. I know that I should play the ball as it lies, but I don’t think the Golf Gods mind this little indiscretion.
When lining up a putt, I play less break than usual. I think that the holes take a lot of curve out of the ball.
Because I find that aerification slows the ball down, I aim for a spot a couple of holes past the cup.
I also concentrate on getting the ball to roll as smoothly as possible. A long follow-through really helps.
Just off the green, I pitch rather than chip. Chipping is my usual method of getting the ball near the hole for a one-putt, but it becomes more dicey if the greens are not smooth. Keeping the ball in the air as long as possible reduces the chances of deflection.
There’s also a benefit to aerification, however. Balls hit into the green are less likely to roll off it.