Aerification - Coping with a Necessary Evil

By: Dave Castleberry

Aerification, overseeding and topdressing - it's that time of the year again. To some golfers, it's the pits. It doesn't matter what part of the country you live in, we all have to endure these routine maintenance practices at some point.

A couple of weeks every spring and fall our beloved golf course is subject to the wrath of the superintendent as he turns the greens into something closer to a cheese grater than the smooth surfaces we've known and loved the past six months. This game is fickle enough as it is - now we have to watch our perfectly struck birdie putts hop along a path straight toward the hole only to go airborne and make a 90-degree turn the last few inches.

I've been playing this game for over a quarter-century and worked in the golf industry for over 10 years, both as a greenkeeper and golf pro. I've observed many a duffer be subjected to punched greens that resemble the pock-marked face of a teenager and have come to the conclusion that there are two types of golfers this time of year: Those who try in vain to search for greens that haven't been poked and prodded for the sake of fall maintenance, and those who simply shrug their shoulders and accept the actual bumps in the road and the "rub of the green."

It's the latter segment that tends to skate through the season seemingly stress-free. They smile and leave me with comments such as: "Well, my game's not perfect so why should I expect the greens to be." Or, "It doesn't matter to me. I'm just out to have fun anyway." And my all-time favorite, "The way I putt it'll probably help me."

The irony of it is that the person who utters this last comment doesn't know how right he or she is. Putts don't break as much on greens that have just been punched and sanded. Play a little less break, hit it firm and you'll be surprised at how many putts drop.

Don't believe me? What if I told you that I've been observed three career bests on freshly punched greens? The first was a spectacular 63 by a 17-year-old at the Plateau Club in Sammamish, regarded as one of the hardest courses in Washington State. Another was a 65 highlighted by an astonishing 7-under par 28 on the back nine by an accomplished amateur at Sand Point Country Club in Seattle. The other was a 68, the first-ever bogey-free round by a junior player.

Think of it this way: if freshly topdressed greens give you the same uncomfortable feeling as sand in your shorts, you have two options. You can get angry at the poor soul behind the counter and/or the greens superintendent. But that's like getting irritated at the sun rising in the east.

Or you can grin and bear it and play a nice relaxing game of golf. Who knows, you might just shoot a career round. If not, you always have a built-in excuse.

Dave Castleberry is a member of the PGA and currently the head professional at Cedarcrest Golf Course in Marysville, Wash. Born in Fort Lewis, Wash., Dave and his family moved to Marysville when he was 2 years old. After graduating from Marysville-Pilchuck High School, he attended Washington State University where he earned a degree in Communications in 1995. He began his career in the golf industry on the maintenance crew at the Plateau Club in Sammamish, Wash. Dave spent three years on Plateau's crew, the last two as the irrigation technician before becoming a PGA pro in the year 2000. He spent three years as an assistant pro at Plateau before moving on to Sand Point Country Club in Seattle in 2004. During his time at Sand Point, Dave served as chairman of the Western Washington Assistants' Committee and was named Assistant Professional of the Year by his peers. He began his tenure as Cedarcrest's head pro in March 2007. He currently resides in Lynnwood, Wash., with his beautiful wife of three years, Jennifer.