5 Things to Know About Aerification: A Routine (and Necessary) Element of Creating Peak Golfing Conditions

By Jim Maggio

Summer’s a great time of year to hit the links in Myrtle Beach. It’s also “aerification” time, where Grand Strand golf courses each choose a brief time in the summer months to conduct routine turf maintenance to ensure the continued health and quality of their playing surface.

Here’s what you should know about the process – why it’s necessary, and how it benefits golfers.

Golf courses conduct aerification as part of their maintenance practices to improve the health and playability of the turfgrass on their greens, fairways, and tees. Aerification involves creating holes in the soil to allow better air, water, and nutrient exchange between the surface and the root zone. The process typically includes the use of specialized equipment such as aerators or coring machines. Here are the main reasons why golf courses conduct aerification:

1. Alleviate Soil Compaction: Golf courses receive a significant amount of foot traffic from golfers, maintenance equipment, and carts. This foot traffic can compact the soil, reducing pore space and making it difficult for roots to grow and access necessary nutrients, water, and oxygen. Aerification loosens the soil, reducing compaction and allowing better root development.

2. Improve Air Exchange: Grass roots need oxygen for proper growth and health. Aerification creates channels in the soil, facilitating the movement of air to the root zone. This process helps prevent the buildup of harmful anaerobic conditions that can damage the roots and the overall health of the turf.

3. Enhance Water Infiltration: During heavy rain or irrigation, compacted soil may resist water penetration, leading to surface runoff and inefficient water use. By creating holes or channels in the soil, aerification improves water infiltration, helping the turf receive adequate moisture and reducing the risk of water-related issues.

4. Promote Thatch Breakdown: Thatch is the layer of organic material (dead roots, grass clippings, etc.) that accumulates above the soil surface. Excessive thatch can impede water and nutrient movement to the root zone, leading to shallow root growth. Aerification helps break down thatch by incorporating it into the holes, encouraging decomposition and reducing its negative impact on the turf.

5. Stimulate New Growth: After aerification, the holes in the turf provide an opportunity for new grass shoots to develop, promoting denser and healthier turf coverage. Golf courses often time aerification during periods of active growth to maximize the recovery of the turf.

While aerification is essential for maintaining healthy turf, it can temporarily affect the smoothness and playability of the golf course. The holes left behind by the aerification process can disrupt ball roll on the greens, which is why some golf courses might roll or topdress the greens afterward to minimize the impact on play.

The timing and frequency of aerification depend on various factors, including grass type, climate, and course usage. Golf course superintendents carefully plan aerification schedules to minimize disruption to golfers while ensuring the long-term health and quality of the playing surfaces.

Courses usually close for 3-5 days to conduct the aerification, and from the time they reopen it typically takes 2-3 weeks for the playing surfaces to fully heal from the process.

So as you plan your next Myrtle Beach golf round, we simply suggest you call the course you’re interested in playing to get an update on their summer maintenance dates. They’re always happy to help, and look forward to your next visit!