Superintendent Magazine - October, 2012


The Big Fix: Easy on the Greens

Big problems on golf courses and how to overcome them
By Larry Aylward

Yeah, it's about the putting greens because that's where the big money is. The greens must be aerified. But aerification - as every golf course superintendent knows - is also about the customer, as in the golfers. That said, Daniel Faltysec wonders why more superintendents don't aerify with drill tines on sand-based greens.

A drill tine, from 3/8 to 5/8 of an inch, works like a Yankee screwdriver as it spins into the ground without making much of a hole. When it reaches its length, it locks and then pulls up, bringing loose sand with it.

There's much debris, including exposed root mass. But the process does what core aeration does, opening holes to allow water, air and nutrients in without disrupting turf.

Doug Browne, golf course superintendent of Stephen F. Austin Golf Club in San Felipe, Texas, says drill tining is like pulling a core, except the core is getting pulverized by the drill when it gets pulled out.

Drill tining is simply a different way to vent turf without pulling cores. While most superintendents are partial to core aeration, more of them should consider drill tining because it is less disruptive - which equates to less eruptive golfers going off because the greens are bumpy and battered from core aeration.

"The main thing is that it's so unobtrusive to the turf," Faltysec says.

Drill tines do an excellent job of relieving compaction by going to an adequate depth and "kicking," which causes the tine's bottom to come out at a different angle, he adds.

Drill tining can also be done much faster; one green takes about 15 minutes. What damage there is heals quickly.

"I'm told by superintendents that if they drill tine on Monday during the growing season, the procedure is hardly noticeable by the end of the week," Faltysec says. "After drill tining, they drag the greens and mow them, and put the flagsticks back in."

Drill tines are also durable. If taken care of, they can last a lifetime, Faltysec says.

Superintendents have used drill tines before on reciprocating aerifiers, but they didn't twist, turn or lock, says Faltysec, who has a patent on the technology.

"They just pushed in and pulled out," he says. "That will actually push the turf down into the soil, which is probably something you don't want.'


Superintendents usually core aerate the greens annually to change the soil profile. But if the soil profile doesn't need changing and there's no thatch, all they need to do is drill tine the greens, Faltysec says.

"I know several superintendents that just drill tine once a year," he adds.

The more you aerate, the deeper the root base can go and the better chance of turf surviving in extreme heat. But superintendents can't core aerate that often; they can, however, drill tine on a regular basis.

These days, superintendents must wear their customer hats as often as their agronomic hats.

"I play at a golf course that when they core aerify the golfers don't want to play," Faltysec says.

But if that course was drill tining, the golfers might not even know what was going on.

Aylward can be reached at