Drainage and aeration: maintance your golf field to support the demand for year-round play

The demand for year-round playability is putting ever-increasing pressure on greens staff to deliver a golf course and able to withstand the additional rounds of play. A lot of attention is paid to retaining the quality of the greens over the winter, but perhaps less consideration is given to the influence that the fairways have on the overall game. GKB Machines explore the subject of fairway drainage and how extending aeration programmes and drainage techniques can create a surface fit for the perfect follow-up shot. We also discuss the machines you can use for the maintenance of your golf course grass: the GKB Drainmaster and the GKB Deep Tine Aerotor.

What drainage systems are there?

In comparison to the variations of profile construction adopted on a club’s greens, fairways will tend to be constructed on indigenous soil which will vary greatly in terms of its permeability. If a club is fortunate enough to have primary piped land drainage is installed, this is likely to be in the form of a grid or herringbone system, with laterals feeding into a main drain at five, seven or ten metre spacings. This system in place will be dependant on:

  • the soil type;
  • the physical characteristics of the area
  • the whereabouts of outfall locations

All with the same goal of adequately removing ground water.

Secondary drainage at your golf course

To speed up the movement of excess moisture from the soil down into the pipe network, secondary drainage is often required. Why? Because of two reasons:

  1. Secondary drainage systems quickly remove water from the surface.
  2. Secondary drainage feed the water into the primary system, ensuring fairways and other playing surfaces retain their ability to host play, even following heavy periods of rainfall.

This will typically be in the form of sand slitting, sand or gravel banding and/or frequent aeration.

Timing of secondary drainage is essential

The timing of carrying out any form of secondary drainage is essential. If the fairways are already holding water, the utilisation of machinery to remedy that can often do more harm than good. Try to prevent the issues from occurring in the first place by implementing secondary drainage operations into your maintenance programme, executing it in dry to conditions to maximise its effectiveness.

Which machine can you use for drainage?

The GKB Drainmaster has come to the rescue of a number of golf courses, without the budget to carry out a complete renovation, but suffering from excess surface moisture.

The GKB Drainmaster works as follows:

  • The Drainmaster channels two or three 40mm wide trenches at half metre spacings, that run perpendicular to the existing underlying drainage system.
  • The removed soil cleanly and conveniently transported via a conveyor to an awaiting hopper or vehicle.
  • The hollowed channels, at a depth of 230mm are then simultaneously backfilled with sand – leaving a clean and level finish, ready to accept new seed to complete the recovery.Read more about the GKB Drainmaster

When is aerating the field necessary with an aeration machine?

Even with effective primary and secondary drainage networks in place, the movement of moisture is still reliant on the natural permeability of the soil profile and the ability for water to adequately move through the rootzone layer which is where aeration comes into play. Any issues with heavy fairway soil profiles will be exacerbated through the wet winter months. An aeration machine will make sure that:

  • the issues associated with surface compaction will be minimise;
  • the downward movemant of oxygen and any nutrient apllications will be optimise;
  • optimal condtions for plant health are created;
  • you emerge in the new growing season with a stronger sward.

Which aeration machine can you use?

With our GKB Deep Tine Aerator (DTA) your prevent soil compaction for you golf field or sport field. The Deep Tine Aerator (DTA) is available in four working widths. The largest two – 2.1m and 2.6m – would be ideally suited to decompacting fairways, down to depths of 400mm or as low as deep as the conditions permit on the given day. We give you two importent tips:

  1. To avoid any detrimental impact to plant health, only aerate in dry conditions.
  2. If a window presents itself in the lead up to the wettest winter months, take it and utilise 1” tines with a level of heave to match the ground conditions, to open the ground up and create networks ready to drain away any rainfall.

Read more about the GKB Deep Tine Aerator

Following aeration with topdressing

If time and resources allow, following aeration with topdressing is a great way to ensure those networks stay open and drain freely. Frequent, light sand dressings on the fairways has the following benefits:

  • It can improve the drainage characteristics of the upper rootzone.
  • It can reduce the amount of organic matter that builds up in the top layer.
  • In addition itproduce an environment that is also less conducive for worms.

A disc spreader such as the GKB Sandspreader is a fast and accurate way to evenly distribute dressing across the fairway. The SP300 features a large 3m3 hopper capacity and offers a spreading width of up to 10m.

Conclusion drainage and aeration

The amount of additional activity required to create free-draining fairways will largely be determined by their construction and the levels of footfall contributing to surface compaction. However, consider that compaction is much easier to prevent than having to cure it when it has already happened.