Top Tips - Managing greens footfall

James Matthewmanin Top Tips

We sat down with James Matthewman to discuss the effect that footfall has had on his course to gain the best possible tips for dealing with the compaction of turf.

James started by outlining the technical side of footfall, as he highlights key examples of 23 people on a football pitch, or a four-ball walking around a green.

"The amount of compaction that is caused by footfall is staggering; a goalkeeper box, or around the hole on a golf green are two areas largely effected due to increased footfall. Both experience much more compaction due to the amount of footfall in that area and this is why aeration is so important to us as greenkeepers and groundsmen as it relieves compaction."

James went into detail about the impact of a four-ball on his course; "Compacted soils can be very harmful to the playing surface, especially wetter soils - because the soil particles are compressed much easier, which will then lead to the soil becoming anaerobic (when there is no room in the soil for air movement). Anaerobic bacteria can then dominate the soil and, if left untreated, it can lead to a black layer."

"The solution is to make the soil more aerobic which can be achieved with aeration. It will allow for more air, water and nutrient movement and various gaseous exchanges. When people are putting towards the hole, they sometimes notice the ball will veer off. What is happening here is due to the amount of footfall in and around the pin and the compaction causes crowning."

As well as indicating aeration as a way to combat compaction and the results of footfall, he also conveys another method; "You can also move the pin around the green in order to try and increase that surface area of footfall, this is why in football we see much more compaction and damage to the goalkeeper area because we obviously can't move the goals."

James' top tip for footfall: "When dealing with footfall, you want golfers to be playing all-year-round, but you don't want them to be causing significant damage. Therefore, either close off the greens - especially when they are saturated and frosty - as this will just cause a huge amount of damage. If you cannot do this, manage the maintenance as much as you can through aeration to release as much of the compaction as possible."

"The turf is like a carpet in a restaurant, you can tell where people have been standing in one area because the footfall has caused damage to the carpet. This is the same near the pin in golf and in a goalkeeper area in football - these areas are having more footfall and therefore the ground is more damaged."