One of the annoying times of the year is when a golf course aerates its greens, leaving tons of tiny holes all over the putting surface. This takes away the smooth roll as the golf ball bounces on its way to the hole, rolling over these holes in the green.
For me, I love a smooth rolling green. Anytime I get to a golf course and find the green in rough shape, it’s annoying.
And green aeration, unfortunately, happens at all golf courses so it’s hard to escape it all together whether you play private or public golf courses.
In this guide, we will review what aeration is and why golf courses do it.
My name is Nick Foy, a golf coach at Foy Golf Academy where I teach thousands of students practice plans to get better at golf. Thanks for reading today’s article on tips to adjust putting and chipping when golf courses just aerated their greens.
What Does an Aerated Golf Green Look Like?
Here is a photo showing you what a green looks like after it has been aerated.
These little holes that are left behind from aeration are what cause the putting surface to be bumpy when you’re putting and this can affect your performance.
Aerating the Golf Greens 101
Aeration is a soil enhancement technique, where golf courses bring in a machine that punches holes into the ground by removing soil cores (“plugs”) and leaving behind tons of tiny 0.5″ diameter holes all over the ground.
Aeration essentially, gives the soil “air”, helping it to breathe and improve so that grass can grow better. Over time, soil becomes very compacted, thatch builds up, and this makes it difficult for water and fertilizer nutrients to reach the grass roots.
Soil can have several layers as dead grass and other organic matter (known as thatch) start to build up on the surface, blocking water from reaching the healthy roots underneath.
The aeration process helps open things up and reduce the compaction, helping soil get access to the water and nutrients it needs to grow grass. It also helps reduce disease and fungus that can damage a golf green.
Overall, this process helps golf greens stay smooth and is necessary to keep a golf green in top shape.
Putting Tips on an Aerated Green
In the event that you happen to play a golf course during a time when the greens have just been aerated, it can make things bumpy on the greens as putts roll across these aeration holes in the green.
Here’s a few tips:
- Greens aren’t mowed as often after aeration so they may be longer than normal and slower than normal. Hit putts with some extra power to adjust for the slower roll conditions.
- Since the putt may bounce as a result of an unsmooth putting surface, have patience and try not to get frustrated. If you feel like a putt was going to go into the hole, then give yourself the benefit and score it as a made putt.
- Lastly, greens that are aerated won’t have as much break as smooth putting greens so aim your putts to play for less break.
Chipping Tips on an Aerated Green
You should also adjust your strategy when chipping on aerated greens. The ideal strategy for chip shots is to play more roll and less carry. In other words, the bump and run chip shot that lands sooner and rolls more on the putting green.
For this, you can choose a less lofted wedge in your bag so that you can hit chip shots that roll out more.
Lower shots have a higher chance of staying on line and getting to the hole. When you hit a high lofted shot it comes down steeper and has more chance of landing in an aerated hole, kicking it off line.
Expect the greens to be slower when chipping and require more power to get the ball to the hole than on normal smooth greens.
How Some Golf Courses Handles Green Aeration
You may find a golf course that only aerates half of the golf green at one time, leaving the other half smooth.
I’ve been on a golf course before where I found this happen and they put the flagstick on the smooth side of the green, away from the aerated portion of the green.
It’s rare a golf course will take this extra step of aerating the green in two phases, half now and half later, but it definitely shows their commitment to keeping golfers happy when they do it this way.
For me unfortunately, I still hit my approach shot onto the aerated portion of the green so I faced a putt that had to roll over some aerated surface before it finally made its way onto the smooth surface to finish it’s roll to the hole.
It didn’t impact the long putts as much and since they were just lag putts anyway, I still got to finish the short, important putts on a smooth, true roll.
Should You Play on an Aerated Golf Course?
Unfortunately, you won’t know when a golf course is going to be freshly aerated upon arrival in most cases unless it’s a golf course that posts an aeration schedule for the public and members to see.
It’s wise to call ahead and ask about the golf courses aeration schedule during the golf season so you can be aware of what dates it will take place and avoid playing the course that week.
Playing an aerated golf course is personal preference.
Sure it can cause the ball to not roll true as it would on a faster, smooth surface, but there are work arounds.
For example, if you’re playing a casual fun round of golf with fellow friends, then you could incorporate a rule that all greens will be an automatic two putt on the score card.
This takes away any worry that the aerated holes in the green will mess up your short putts to save par, and cause you to three putt or worse on the green.
This arbitrary rule for current course conditions, also allows you to get more aggressive and have fun trying to make the first putt since you don’t have to worry about three putts anymore.
How Long Does Green Aeration Take to Heal?
Aeration will usually last a minimum of two weeks but can take up to 4 weeks. It really depends on the weather as good weather conditions will enable the greens to heal faster.
If the weather is too hot or too cold, this could slow down the grass growth process. Grass grows best in certain weather conditions that cause warm soil temperatures but aren’t too hot where the heat stresses the grass.
Overall, green aeration is a necessary part of keeping a golf course in good condition. The soil needs oxygen, water, and nutrients.
This can be affected when thatch starts to build up as dead grass, dead roots, and other matter start to build up layers on top of healthy soil, blocking it from receiving the water, oxygen, and fertilizer food.
Aerating is the processing of pulling out “cores” which look like plugs of soil plucked from the ground, leaving behind small holes all over the putting green.
This can make golf challenging having to deal with an uneven, bouncy putting surface.
Check with a golf course staff member about an aeration schedule so you can decide if it’s worth playing a golf course during the time they’re aerating the greens. Give them 2-4 weeks to heal after core aeration is used.
And if you decide to play an aerated golf course, have patience and give putts and chips more power to overcome the taller grass and slower greens.
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Nick Foy, Instructor