Aerated Greens
By KorryFranke on 10/5/07
Question: Why do course aerate greens, and why do they do it during peak golf season?

How many times in your life have you heard the saying, "If you want to take a step forward, sometimes you have to begin with a step back"? Now when it comes to golf, I can see this old saying having quite a few parallels, most notably refining your swing. But helping a green stay in pristine shape?? No way! Greens already account for at least 18 reasons why my score isn't as good as it should be. The last thing I (or presumably any of us) need is to deal with a green that not only has its usual peculiarities but also has a million little holes drilled into it!!!

I'm talking, of course, about green aerification. And if you've ever played a round of golf with recently aerated greens, I'm sure you know exactly what I'm referring to. So why the heck do greens keepers feel the need to basically ruin a perfectly good green by punching tons and tons of little holes in it, not to mention driving golfers absolutely mad at the same time? Well, that's an excellent question and the answer is basically as simple as taking one step back to move two steps forward.

You see, the grasses used on common greens are very temperamental. In fact, for it to grow successfully while being cut to the short length of about 3/16 of an inch, the grass needs long roots. It is through these roots that the grass gets its needed oxygen and water. And as you can imagine, countless golfers and mowers moving over it compacts the ground under the green to the point where if left unchecked, the roots would nearly suffocate and eventually die.

By removing small little cores of turf through the process of aerification, the green decompresses and regains its ability to breath. As the greenskeepers add a sandy mixture to fill in the holes, the actual makeup of the turf improves letting the roots gain more of the vital water and air needed to help the green grow even better. Aerification also removes some of the top layer of turf known as thatch, basically the remnants of dead grass from past trimmings, etc. Some thatch is good as it returns important nutrients to the soil. But, too much thatch is bad because it can serve as a haven for diseases and insects.

What's worse is that the best time of year to aerate the greens is mid-summer and that means right smack-dab in the middle of peak golfing season! Then, to add insult to injury, the USGA does not really give us much relief in the rulebook concerning the holes left from aerification. Brent Kelley discusses the nuances of this rule here.

I guess that means we'll just have to look past the terrible putts we'll make on an aerated green and instead think of the long-term benefits for our beloved courses. That, my friends, will be waaaaay easier said than done! Can you say, "mulligan"???

Email Korry your questions at

Korry Franke is a Boeing 757 and 767 pilot for Continental Airlines where he flies out of Newark, NJ to destinations across the US and around the globe. He lives in Bethlehem, PA where he spends most of his time on days off at the driving range or out on the golf course giving his game the practice it so desperately needs.

[ comments ]
volleyhart says:
That's why I three-putted yesterday. Thatch.

Anything inside 8 feet on a recently aerated green should be a gimmie. Matter of fact, make it 10.
H2Okie says:
I was there, that's not why you 3 putted!
volleyhart says:
Shut it, Swimmer.
HotBacon says:
I have no issues w/ greenskeepers performing this task, as it's a necessary evil. However, I don't understand why the course has no issues charging full price w/o letting you know that the greens are unputtable. There is nothing more annoying than paying $50, and walking onto the first green 15 minutes later to find that your score for the roun will be pointless.
PapaJoe says:
Yay! HotBacon, I agree 100% with you. Whenever I call for tee times I've got accustomed to asking the golf course whether or not the greenw have been recently aerated or the fairways plugged. If so the standard answer is always, "Yes, but everything is in good shape by now." What a bunch of bull! If you ever hear that reply check another golf course, even if it's not your own club so that you can have a decent round without hitting from terrible lies or putting over holes punched in the greens! And if they outright lie to you demand your money back. I have, and have always got a "rain check" whether it has rained or not. What's fair is fair!
JohnJackson says:
Why not only aerate right or left half of the green at a time with the cup on the good side of the green? This would insure that the putting experience close to the cup would always be good and be much more acceptable to the golfer.
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