Back to Basics sort of

Most golfers know that aerification or the process of poking holes in the ground is necessary. Whether you pull cores out or simply make a hole with solid tines. The benefits are numerous and explained ad nauseum in every turf newsletter and blog all over the world. In agriculture you can gain the same benefits of relieving compaction,  adding amendments, improving soil health and drainage etc by tilling. There is a trend now to call aerifying vertical tilling because of the similarities. We have purchased a new tractor and aerifier. We used to contract out a deeptine aerification for greens every year. Now we can do it ourselves and also use the machine everywhere else. Or can we?
worn out after a couple of fairways VS new

You saw in a previous post how we hit some rocks on 9 fairway. We also have seen a very noticeable difference in how the aerified fairways take water. We have had over 7" of rain in the past month and those fairways are much firmer and drier which means they will be playable faster. That's a good thing right? Kind of the point of going as deep as we can. Today I put on a fresh set of tines so we can continue the process. We have only done 1,9,5 & 7 fairways so far and with 5 & 7 the tines were pretty worn so not penetrating as deep. I also tried to turn on the irrigation system today and did not get far. There was water coming out of a pipe on 1 in several places. The 1st rule of irrigation installation is to put it below aerifier depth. At least a foot is standard if not 18" and anything less than 10" is a Cardinal sin. I was able to isolate the leaking pipe and continue my scouting of the course. I opened a bunch of valves to let the air out. Upon my return to number one I saw another spot with water coming out close to a sprinkler but not on the pipe feeding it. That usually means abandoned galvanized pipe from the original 1936 system still in place. Never a good thing. I did a quick exploratory hole and sure enough it is exactly that. The surprising thing is the depth. It is only three inches down. Sadly I expect this sort of thing on our plastic system installed in the early 90's but with the original mainline being at 6-7 feet in most places I assume the pipes connected to it are deeper than 3 inches.
single tine hole in pipe?

Multiple holes?

Maybe 3" deep. Notice plastic cap on end of  galvi pipe

So now the question becomes do we continue this process? The old fairway aerifier was only capable of going  4-6" deep. We never hit any pipe but did so much turf damage with it we stopped using it over a decade ago switching to spiking them instead. The fairways seem to be OK but they really are a house of cards. Any stress and they fall apart. As mentioned the aerified ones are taking water much better which means not closing them to carts as often or for as long. Real proof of the value of this process. There are many other benefits that will not be as noticeable such as deeper roots. If I set the machine shallower the benefits will be reduced but also what depth to choose? The galvi on one is 3" and it almost seems a waste of time to only go that deep. I feel like the accountant who knows that reconciling the books is a good thing but every time I do the computer breaks and adds more work. The basics of aerifying and reconciling the check book are fundamental to good business practices but you can get by without them for a little while. The auditor who has to deal with the books not reconciled will not be happy. Our audit comes in the form of stress whether rainfall, too much or too little, or temperature. Our fairways slide every summer as the stresses take their toll. I know how to improve them to keep this from happening. I even have the tool now to accomplish this task. What I don't know is how much damage I will do to the irrigation system trying to perform this basic cultural practice. The beauty of having an old course with outdated infrastructure. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
Other than that it should be a great Masters Sunday. I was even able to see the logo on the course first thing this morning:

Happy Chris Morse

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