Rio Secco Golf Club Uses Temporary Closure to Tackle Turf Aerification

Exceptional conditions to greet golfers upon reopening

The temporary closure of Rio Secco Golf Club to help flatten the curve of COVID-19 spread in Las Vegas has provided the club with an opportunity to aerate the golf course without disrupting play. The goal is to make the best of a bad situation, delivering excellent playing conditions once Rio Secco – one of Las Vegas’ top golf courses – reopens for public play.

“The biggest advantage we have right now is that the course is closed. We’re going to see how long it will take to punch everything without disruption,” said Randy Key, superintendent of Rio Secco Golf Club. “We will complete this aerification, and then focus on some detail cleaning around trees as well as other tasks. Next greens core aerification will coincide with our annual closure for overseed in the fall.”

The Why and How of Aeration

Over time, organic matter such as decaying roots and grass stems under the green’s surface become too thick and begins to behave like a sponge, holding water at the surface after rain or irrigation. This inhibits root growth and reduces oxygen levels in the soil, which causes turf decay and even death.

“My philosophy behind aerification is if your roots can’t breathe, they will eventually suffer from lack of oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange, which is very vital to plant health,” said Key.

The aerification process provides growing room for grass roots and helps keep the turf healthy by increasing the amount of oxygen to the roots. Increased oxygen means deeper roots, which in turn, create the pure, true-rolling putting surfaces golfers enjoy at Rio Secco.

The agronomy team fires up specialized core aerification machine, which looks something like a torture device from a horror film, and physically remove up to half-inch-diameter plugs of turf and soil. The excess airflow in the turf allows moisture to evaporate quickly, promotes gas exchange in the soil and results in stronger root systems.

Post-Aeration Play

Greens are aerified twice a year, usually in Spring – around Easter – and then again in conjunction with the annual overseeding process in August/September. When are they good to go for golfers?

“Everything should be nice and healed within two or three weeks depending on Mother Nature,” said Key. “Might be able to see the holes in the fairways a bit longer, but it’s not a concern from a playability standpoint.”

Ultimately it’s a personal call. Golfers seem to be of two minds: some prefer taking a pass, while others are happy to swing away, pencil-in an auto-two-putt, and relish time spent with family and friends overlooking the Las Vegas Strip from Rio Secco’s lofty vantage point. Lastly, it’s always nice to save a few bucks with the reduced rates offered as the putting surfaces heal.

Ready for the Return of Play

Since no golfer wants to hear the word “aerification,” the maintenance team is getting it done during a window of opportunity provided by the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Rio Secco Golf Club is widely considered one of the best in the Las Vegas area, with a strong reputation among avid and core golfers worldwide. When the gates swing open, they’ll find the same exceptional Vegas golf experience waiting for them.

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