Shrinking Greens, Carts Signs and Aeration: 3 Course Questions You Always Wanted Answered

A golf course is a living breathing organism, subject to a variety of environmental factors and events beyond human control, so there is a premium placed on how a course is cared for.

The most important (and stressful) job at any course is the superintendent’s, as they are responsible for the condition of the property. With that in mind, we sat down with Max Morgan, Founders Group International’s vice president of agronomy (pictured right), and asked him three questions we hear most often from golfers.

Why do greens shrink?Max Morgan
With Grande Dunes Resort Club and River Hills undergoing greens renovation projects this summer that will see both layouts expand their total putting surfaces by approximately 40 percent, we’ve heard countless variations of “How can greens shrink that much?”

Most people believe it’s because the maintenance team doesn’t consistently mow to the edge of the greens, allowing the rough to gradually encroach on the putting surface.

“That’s absolutely false,” Morgan said about faulty mowing practices being responsible for green shrinkage. “If it was that simple, we would do that (mow to the edge).”

The blame lies in the desire for fast greens.

“(All golf courses) spray greens with growth regulators,” Morgan said. “(Courses) spray the regulator because people want fast greens and it keeps greens shorter and faster throughout the day, but it also means the grass growing around the greens is growing more vigorously, allowing it to overtake the putting surface over time.”

Why aerate greens?
Summer is nearly upon us, which means golf courses will be aerating, a maintenance practice to help ensure the health of putting surfaces. But what exactly does aerating do?

“It gets air in the roots,” Morgan said. “You have to have air to grow grass. Aeration also relieves compaction and it gets rid of organic matter so it does three things. The greens would get spongy and soft if we didn’t aerate. We do it in the early part of summer so the greens will heal quickly.”

Golfers don’t love aeration but it’s vital to the long-term health of a course’s greens.

Why do I have to return the cart to the path so far away from the green?River Club 1st Hole
For me, this has long been one of life’s great mysteries. Why do you have to take the cart back to the path 70 yards from the green on one hole and 20 on the next? Turns out the answer is rather simple:

“Wherever carts go they cause wear and we don’t want them all driving to the same spots,” Morgan said.

To ensure fairway wear doesn’t become an issue, the signs directing carts to the path vary throughout the year.

Matter of fact, if Morgan could make one request it would be for golfers to drive on the greenest part of the fairway upon entry and exit, because that means there is little wear and it helps keep the course in better condition.

If you have any other questions for the superintendent, let us know!