Why do we hollowtine?

When love and hate collide
I know the heading of my article sounds like a song, and maybe it was written for Course Superintendents as they start their Spring treatments on the course every year, the time of the year when course superintendent punch holes in their well-manicured greens that resembles billiard tables, also the time of the year when members “love to hate” the poor guy maintaining the greens, the Course “Sup” .Why would any person in their right mind want to mess up a perfect green?

I hope to answer some of these questions from a Superintendents point of view.

Why do we hollowtine?
It is hard to believe that hollowtining helps you keep your greens perfect, but this is true. The main reasons why we do hollowtining will be named and highlighted in this article.

Thatch removal is a key reason why greens and fairways for that matter gets hollow tined, the definition of thatch can be described as, “Thatch is a tightly intermingled layer of living and dead stems, leaves and roots which accumulates between the layer of actively-growing grass and the soil underneath. Thatch is a normal component of an actively growing turf grass. As long as the thatch is not too thick, it can increase the resilience of the turf to heavy traffic. Thatch develops more readily on high-maintenance lawns than on low-maintenance lawns.” The definition sums up why it is important to remove thatch on greens.

Compaction relief
, with this I mean compaction caused due to traffic moving over the green on a daily basis, whether it is the machines cutting the grass or golfers enjoying a nice round of golf .Imagine walking in a veld and ahead of you are animal paths heading in all directions, have you ever noticed that nothing grows where all the traffic is focused on? This is all due to compaction and outside stresses that are not advantageous to normal plant growth, take the traffic out of the veld and the weeds will start growing on these compacted areas and water will struggle to infiltrate the soil. Let me explain how hollowtining helps with compaction relief. A hole gets punched into the greens surface and a core extracted (or not in the case of solid tines), immediately the tine breaks the hard crust under the surface and depending on the severity of the compaction the Superintendent can set the depth of tining accordingly. Now for the rest of this article I will focus on “Hollowtining” where we extract a core from the actual green and fill the hole with sand to ensure a smooth putting surface. By filling the hole with new sand it creates a new growing medium for the roots to move into, and the more roots you have, the stronger the plant, and the stronger the plant, the less it will suffer under the stresses of heat and disease.

The open holes on the greens give the Superintendent the perfect opportunity to get all the needed soil amendments down to ensure optimum plant growth. The open holes also promotes air movement within the soil, and like all living things, the most important components to stay alive are air, water, food and temperature. I think I have touched on most of these key components now, except water. Due to the compaction relief, water now drains freely through the soil profile where the plant can absorb the water through its roots and also due to the water movement, a lot of unwanted salts can get washed out of the soil that will usually be harmful to the plant.

The time of the year when most clubs do their tining will be dependent on weather, golf days and scheduled tournaments, but most courses do it between September and November and some courses even do it twice a year, with this I mean that they do it again in March or April. This seems a lot, but the only reason most clubs don’t do it twice a year is because of budget constraints and loss of income during and after the hollowtining.

Now you can take this information and apply this to your lawn at home, trust me, you will see some amazing results. There are contractors that specialize in hollow tining and scarifying of lawns. Ask your course Superintendent for some advice; he might just be able to put you in contact with contractors like this.

This is in short why we hollowtine and how we can keep giving you great greens surfaces for most of the year. Next time you see your Course Superintendent, have a chat with him and ask him more about the process, because the more we all know the better, and remember this “sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind to get the best results”.

Greetings from St Francis Links where we hope to make a first impression a lasting impression.

Charl Blaauw
Estate Maintenance Manager/Golf Course Superintendant