Staying on Course

The Cordillera Ranch Agronomy Team prepares for summer golf course maintenance.

It’s summer time at Cordillera Ranch and there’s no doubt everyone is enjoying some vacation time, summer camps with kids or relaxing by the pool. Our spring season was an exceptional one for golf.  Albeit interrupted by several rain events, the course and the golf experience have benefitted from the rains. As with every season, there is a time when the course needs its own vacation to recover from several months of heavy traffic. That time is upon us and we will close for a few days to “massage” the stress out of the course. How do we do that? There are several important cultural practices of aerifying, verticutting and topdressing, and I will explain WHY and HOW that leads to better turf conditions for you, as well as the health of the course.


This month we will be aerifying the entire course. This is where we will punch 5/8” to 3/4” holes in all tees, fairways, green surrounds and rough. Pictures are always the best way to convey a message. The aerification illustration below shows the basic elements of WHY we do what we do. For turf health, aerification accomplishes these crucial components:

• Creates vertical channels by which gas exchange or flow of oxygen to roots.

• Conveys nutrients in fertilizers to the root system.

• Creates channels by which turf roots can grow deeper and expand. 

• Relieves soil from compaction due to traffic of golf play and mowers.

We are putting into use a new aerifier that will speed up the process and allow us to complete the entire course in a week. The holes will recover rapidly and be of little to no impact within 10 to 14 days. 

Verticutting or Vertical Mowing

In addition to aerification, we will also be vertical mowing all playing surfaces. Although aerifying does a small part to combat thatch in turf, a more direct approach is needed to relieve thatch buildup. Thatch is basically the “mat” layer just below the turf canopy. This is where old grass clippings, dead leaf tissue and contaminates from the environment build up. Water and fertilizer can also accumulate in this area leading to a puffy/spongy feeling resulting in a softer playing surface with less roll and bounce. This excessive buildup can increase presence of turf diseases. We vertical mow with saw-like blades to cut through that layer. While aimed at removing thatch and creating a firmer surface, vertical mowing also creates long channels allowing nutrients and oxygen to make it past the thatch layer and into the root zone.  


Aerification and vertical mowing are important cultural practices, however, sand topdressing is also an important process by which we accomplish our goal of firmer, faster, healthier playing surfaces. Let’s be honest here — sand has received a bad rap. I believe it is the one thing that aids in a more consistent and smoother playing surface. Our goal in topdressing is three-fold. First, we dilute the heavy soils with sand as it is a medium through which roots, nutrients and oxygen can readily flow. Nutrients move extremely slow through our heavy soils, and in areas of clay soils, the nutrients become tightly bonded or held and thus become unavailable to the plant’s roots. The same is true for the thatch layer. By diluting the spongy thatch layer with sand, we are able to help nutrient flow through the top layer of turf as well as firm up the surface by keeping it drier on top. Finally, by topdressing consistently, we smooth everything up. We’re in Texas and if we want to make use of the Texas wedge, we definitely want a smooth and consistent surface from fairway to green.  

Cordillera Ranch is such an amazing place to enjoy the game of golf. Through these practices we will only enhance the experience as you encounter better ball roll and truer surfaces, and an overall aesthetic appeal as our turf becomes healthier visually on top as we address the health underneath. Come on by and watch us work. I encourage everyone to come and see the process in person and we can answer any additional questions.

Golf Course Maintenance Dates: 

Monday, July 19 – Thursday, July 22

Stu Rowland is the Director of Agronomy at The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch. He can be reached at or 830.336.3710.

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