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To core, or not to core, that is the question

Jun 10, 2023

One of the most admirable traits about the golf turf profession is the willingness of superintendents to share information to help a colleague solve a problem.

Sometimes, however, the best answers to some of those difficult questions might come from within.

One of those questions that might have a more obvious answer, according to some superintendents, is whether to pull or core or vent.

When asked whether he prefers to pull or core or not, Rick Tegtmeier, CGCS at Des Moines Golf and Country Club in Iowa, said that is an answer unique to each property.

"Younger superintendents, they're afraid to fail and want to mimic what others are doing," Tegtmeier said. "Every course is different. Just do what is right for you. Who gives two hoots what the guy down the street is doing."

In the case of 36-hole Des Moines G&CC, coring makes sense, Tegtmeier said.

"We have A4, and it's very aggressive, so we pull a core on all 36 holes," he said.

"I've always been a coring guy. For my golf course in Iowa, it's the right thing."

At Cinnabar Hills Golf Club south of San Jose, California, superintendent Brian Boyer uses solid tines throughout the year, not because he is averse to pulling a core, but because he does not have to. At least not now.

"We've gotten to the point where (coring) is not necessary based on our soil tests" Boyer said. "We're not producing much organic matter. We did a lot of aggressive coring and topdressing in the past. This didn't happen overnight. I've been here for 18 years, and it's taken 15 years to get to this point."

Recovery time is faster, and golfers are happier, Boyer says.

"It got on my radar five years ago that we might be able to get there," Boyer said. "Do we need to? Our results show we don't.

"The biggest result is we were able to get rid of those cores, but we can go back to it if we ever have to."

Back in Iowa, Tegtmeier's program historically has included needle tining in March, and once per month throughout the season until September when it was time to pull a core.

"We have high salts," Tegtmeier said. "We have to flush the salts below the root system."

To minimize disruption to golfers, Tegtmeier has flipped his program on one course.

He has changed to pulling a core in spring on one course and solid tining in September, while keeping to his original schedule on the other. He also recently began using the GS3 ball from the USGA.

Early results from the GS3 reveal there is no difference in green speed at Des Moines on greens that were cored and those that were vented with solid tines. The difference is smoothness and trueness, Tegtmeier says.

"Golfers are happier now," Tegtmeier said. "They always have one 18 that is great to play on.

"Don't do what works here. Find what works for you."