One of the characteristics that we want to achieve when it comes to fairway maintenance is firm/fast surface conditions. During the spring and fall, these conditions are not overly difficult to provide. During the shoulder seasons, the bent grass doesn't need as much water and the humidity is much lower than say July or August. However, it is our goal to keep the fairways as firm as possible regardless of the season. We cannot control the grass's need for water during the summer, but we can control its access to that water. Grass accesses water through the soil via its root system. If we can help the water infiltrate deeper into the soil and enhance the rooting of the turf, the grass becomes much more drought tolerant during the height of summer. If the grass is more drought tolerant, we can throw less irrigation making the fairway conditions firmer and faster.
Below, you can see two pictures of our deep tine operation. Deep tine is a form of solid tine aeration where we punch a 3/4" hole, 7-8" into the fairway sub-soil. This hole is large enough and deep enough that it lasts in the soil for a very long time. The pocket or channel that is created allows for plentiful amounts of oxygen and gas exchange. This oxygen and gas exchange encourages advantageous rooting. As we stated above, the deeper the roots, the more accessible the moisture and the less irrigation we are required to use. Also, this fracture makes the fairway surface more permeable so that more rain water is captured within the soil profile as opposed to traditional run-off.
Aside from deep tining the fairways, we also verti-cut the fairways during the late fall. Thatch accumulation can be problematic from a disease, insect and water infiltration perspective. So, at the end of each season, we remove the thatch through mechanical means. If the fairways have less thatch, they remain firmer and more receptive to water and nutrients.
Our process begins with a double deep tine. Following the deep tine, we verti-cut the fairways and vacuum the clippings. Following a bit of hand work and blowing, we mow the fairways with our baskets attached to remove any miscellaneous debris.
Once the fairway is mowed, we return for a final blow and the finished product is a fairly undisturbed playing surface.
We are very sensitive to members and the disruption these types of practices can create. We understand that although it is very late in the fall season, people can still find great days to play golf. Having said that, late fall appears to be the best time to accomplish these practices. Member play is much lighter than September - November and the grass is still growing. Because the grass is still growing, we can achieve some advantageous rooting. Waiting until January or February may be too late to see any real benefit from the deep tine holes. Furthermore, we core aerify and top dress during our March aeration so time becomes a major concern.
At the end of the day, we will continue to be sensitive to disruption on the course. However, we remain confident that practices such as these allow us to have great conditions even when its hot and humid.