Have you ever wondered why your favorite golf course spends so much time (or so little) tending to the greens? Do the greens play differently to you after groundskeepers have been working? We asked our resident expert, David Jumper, to tell us how our greens are tended and why it affects your short game. Here’s what he had to say.
There are two major greenskeeping techniques used on the golf course: verticutting and aeration.
Verticutting is the process by which special mowers thin out the grass on the greens. Thinning out the grass allows more sunlight to reach the roots of the plant. This makes the grass stronger and healthier, and forces the grass to stand up straight so greens are smoother for putting and ball rolling. Vericutting allows the grass to grow straight up instead of laterally, increasing green speeds. Lateral growth creates grain growth that affect the roll of the ball. There are different degrees of vericutting, ranging from light trims to very aggressive cutting, and different types of grass can withstand different levels of maintenence.
The greens on the Ole Miss Golf Course are composed of a superdwarf grass called TifEagle. This is a grass that, if left untended, can become very patchy and thick, creating difficult putting surfaces which result in ball bounce or misalignment. Unlike other types of grass, such as 328, TifEagle cannot handle aggressive vericutting. A harsh cut on TifEagle would mean a long recovery period, resulting in a less than perfect putting surface. An agressive vericut could also cause severe damage or death to some areas of the grass. The grass must be thinned out every 7-10 days to ensure the health of the grass as well as true putting for golfers.
Aeration exposes the ground to oxygen and requires the use of a large machine with pencil-sized tines to punch holes into the ground about every inch or so, then rolling over the greens to smooth down the surface. Aeration also keeps greens from getting so hard that no water will penetrate the surface. If no water penetrates the surface, the grass will die. Aeration keeps the greens soft, meaning a quicker stop for the ball when it hits the putting surface. The harder the greens get, the more likely it is for shots to roll off the green, sending a player into the intermediate length grass just off the green. Aeration is used 3 to 4 times a year at the Ole Miss Golf Course to ensure the health of the green.