This past week has been somewhat of an aggravation. Just about every golf course I visited, either for a round with friends or an on-course lesson, had recently aerified. Some we knew about ahead of time and some were a surprise. Which by the way is a horrible thing and something we will cover next week about golf courses needing to get better at being upfront about their maintenance practices.
Before I get into more about this let us first look at what the aerification process is and what the benefits are.
The Aeration Process (according to the GCSAA)
To aerify a golf green a piece of machinery built for the task cores the ground (punches holes and removes the dirt) in a certain pattern. (The small cores of dirt that are removed are called "plugs.") Air and water are thus infused into the ground at root level, and space opened up for new root growth.
Lightning Strike Burns Its Likeness Onto A Practice Green At Iowa Golf Course
The holes left behind are filled with sand in a process called "topdressing." Once topdressed, a course is said to have "sanded greens."
The greens are left alone for a few days (although golfers may still play them) and the grass allowed to grow. The topdressing gradually disappears as watering takes place.
The actual coring of the greens is a quick process, but from the time of the coring until the greens are somewhat back to normal is about a weeklong process. Signs of the aeration holes may remain on the putting greens for longer after that.
The Benefits of Aeration
The bottom line on why golf courses go through the process of aerified greens is that over time it keeps the greens healthier. This is the case because:
Aeration loosens soil that has been compacted by golfers walking over it and machines rolling over it.
This opens up growing room for the roots and increases oxygen to the roots.
The roots of the turfgrass thus can grow deeper, creating a healthier putting surface.
Now let's talk about how you can make the best of a round of golf on an aerified golf course. The first thing to do, especially if you don't find out until you get there, is to remain calm and not let it bother you. That is key to enjoying the day and not getting aggravated when that first putt bounces offline.
Play golf as you normally would from tee to green. With the exception of moving your golf ball out of the holes made from the aerification nothing really changes for your game. Wher it changes is around and on the greens. It is at that point you want to make some slight changes. Not how you swing or anything physical but how you approach those shots. This is a chance to practice or try new shots.
For pitch and chip shots play them as you normally would if the greens were in perfect condition. If you start trying to land the ball differently or play the shot differently you may end up with some bad habits for your next round of golf. By playing shots as you would normally you are developing muscle memory for those shots. This is a great opportunity to focus more on your actual swing. Focus on your landing areas, pay attention to the lie of your golf ball, and focus on the contact you want to make. Once the ball hits the green there is no way to predict where the ball may bounce or roll. Only focus on what you can control.
Just as above the same goes for putting. Since you can not predict how the ball will bounce all you can do is focus on making a good stroke of the golf ball. Do your best to read the green but your main focus is a good stroke and starting the golf ball on your intended line. Don't worry about the speed as much either. Yes, you want to get the speed as best as you can but the aerification holes can slow down or speed up a putt by bouncing it towards the hole.
An aerified golf course can be a benefit for you to get better. You already know the golf course is not optimal for scoring so this is your way of getting on-course practice and becoming better. You could even try different golf course management options.
The important thing is to have fun and hope these tips help you do just that.