Aerating Greens: Why and Can You Play On It?
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Aerating Greens: Why and Can You Play On It?

The concept of aerating greens is not new. The greenkeepers will tend to get to work on the putting greens towards the quieter end of the year when fewer people are out playing thanks to the weather conditions.

This is viewed as being an essential part of the general care of the greens, but what goes on and why do they do it? Also, can you continue to play on the greens even when this has been done?

Well, in case you ever come across this situation, it’s perhaps best to answer these questions.

What is an Aerated Green?

Throughout the main part of the playing season, the greens are going to take a lot of punishment. That means they need to be cared for in the correct way, and aerating them is just one method that is commonly used.

During the main playing season, one approach used involves what’s known as venting aeration. This is a series of small holes made in the playing surface. However, they are so small and so spaced out that the odds of them making a difference to how the ball rolls is almost non-existent.

With venting aeration, there should be no problem in continuing to play. But that’s not what we are primarily talking about here.

Core Aeration

Instead, let’s look at core aeration, as that’s when you are most likely to come across a few changes to the green.

With core aeration, what happens is that a series of small cores are removed from the green. These plugs are then filled with sand, so you have a series of holes all over the green, and it does make things bumpier than before.

The holes themselves are often around half an inch in size. Also, there tends to be a lot of them on every single green. So, gone are the days of a smooth green with only its more natural humps and bumps to contend with.

Why Do They Do it?

Lawn aeration stage illustration. Before and after aeration.

Considering they leave holes all over the green, which is why they do it at the time of year when there’s less play, why do the greenkeepers even aerate the greens?

The answer is simple. They have no other choice if they wish to keep the greens as healthy as possible.

Actually, there’s more than one reason, as the general golf club will mention four. However, it’s all connected to caring for the turf.

Aeration is going to help with removing organic matter from the green. This then allows the green to breathe. Also, it is used to decompress the soil, promote root growth, and finally it improves the overall drainage.

Without all of these things, the green would quickly become damaged and make life even harder for players. 

Why Removing Organic Material Matters

The problem with organic material on the green is that it affects the way in which water reaches the roots of the turf, and that also then leads to a reduction in the amount of oxygen that also gets there. 

This is going to damage the turf, and then lead to a bigger issue. 

Why Decompression Matters

With decompression, it has the impact of also helping the grass grow, as well as it remaining healthy, and that too will help with the overall appearance and feel of the green. But this also has another major impact.

Decompression is going to help the greens to remain nice and firm. That also means the greens are going to play fair, and that’s another thing that any player wants to happen as an absolute minimum.

Aerating Greens with a golf ball on the ground

Can You Play On Aerating Green?

So, considering the green has a series of sand-filled holes all over it, how does that translate into you playing on it?

Well, the good news is that you can continue to play on it. However, you need to be aware of how it’s going to affect your shot.

Think of it this way.

If you were to go ahead and drop the ball on a normal green, you would kind of know what it’s going to do depending on the rolls of the green. This doesn’t always happen when you have an aerated green.

With this green, if you dropped the ball and hit the edge of one of the holes, it can easily go off in a completely different direction from what you expected. Of course, that does also mean the exact same thing can happen with your shot.

But this is what you do.

Playing a Shot Onto the Green

The key here is with your approach shot rather than the putt itself. With your approach shot, you want to alter the flight of the ball. That’s going to change how it reacts when it lands on the green, as it changes the angle at which it could hit the edge of a core.

In effect, reducing the angle allows for the ball to potentially skim across the cores, rather than being constantly deflected by them.

But that’s not the only thing.

You should also think about pace, as these cores have the ability to remove some of the speed of your shots whenever you hit a bump. That means judging the distance and the pace becomes a lot harder.

Instead, you need to make sure you add a bit of extra pace to both your chips and putts. That’s going to counteract the loss of speed that you will probably come across. Some people may suggest adding up to 25% more power, but the number of cores per green varies from course to course, so that makes judging this hard.

With this, the best course of action is to go ahead and test things out on the first green. See how it reacts, and then make suitable adjustments for the rest of the holes.

Aerating greens is an essential part of green maintenance, but that doesn’t have to translate to you losing out on a round. You can still play on them, and as long as you make a few subtle changes to your shots, it shouldn’t make too much of a difference to your score.

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