What Is Hollow Tining For?

Why is it an important aspect of course maintenance and how does it differ to solid tining and vertidraining?

What Is Hollow Tining For?

The hollow tining of greens, tees and even fairways is an important part of most golf course maintenance programmes. It’s a recognised and proven technique carried out most years at most UK golf clubs. But at those clubs you’ll hear cantankerous members bemoaning the holey putting surfaces.

Here we give you the lowdown on what hollow tining is and why it occurs.

So what is hollow tining?

It’s the physical removal of cores of turf from a playing surface. The holes are generally 13-16mm in diameter and of varying depths depending on the reason for the tine. The cores are ejected, swept up and removed. They make excellent compost. When completed, a smaller mass of soil will occupy the same area of green/tee/fairway.

Why is it done?

Course traffic causes the ground to become compacted. This means drainage is less efficient and the grass’s roots are prevented from absorbing oxygen. Hollow tining allows the compacted turf to expand and air and moisture to be more easily absorbed. 

The coring helps address the problem of thatch. (Thatch is a layer of grass stems, roots, and debris that settle and accumulate over time.) A thin layer is acceptable but too much thatch will hold water like a sponge. Tining also removes accumulated fibre in the grass’s root zone. It allows for the exchange of a poor soil for a better one through top dressing. That’s why the greens are normally covered in sandy top dressing immediately after they’re cored.

In addition, coring allows for overseeding: another effective way of improving the quality of the playing surface.

Wallasey Golf Club's Course Manager John McLoughlin explains further:

"By watering and fertilising the greens, you naturally build up a layer of organic matter under the turf canopy," he says. "If you've got higher levels of organic matter, the green will hold moisture like a sponge. This means more moisture which will then promote disease. The drier the area is the less disease pressure you’ll get so by doing the hollow core the idea is simply to reduce organic matter which then lowers your risk of disease."

When is it done?

Hollow tining is generally done out-with the main playing season: often in early autumn. It’s important that the tining is completed before the weather turns wet and cold so there’s time for growth and for the holes to seal up.

So the best time to hollow tine is late August/early September, but this coincides with the playing season at most clubs. It’s a difficult balancing act for greenkeepers. Some clubs will look to hollow tine very early in the spring season.

Is it a treatment for diseased greens?

It’s generally accepted that drier surfaces will be less susceptible to diseases like fusarium. As hollow tining is a good way of improving drainage it’s also a way of preventing the spread of disease.

Is it just for greens?

It’s a potential treatment for any turf suffering from compaction, thatch and the other conditions explained above. Many clubs hollow tine their tees and, if they have the manpower, some will even hollow tine the fairways.

Is solid tining the same thing?

Not quite. Solid tining doesn’t remove any matter. It’s useful for aerating the upper level of the root zone. It can be carried out at any point through the year and is particularly good where there is sandy soil that doesn’t need much compaction relief.

And Vertidraining?

John McLoughlin explains:

"That’s where you spike the greens vertically and you put holes in the green. So you’re putting a solid metal tine down to around 11-12 inches into the greens and then that helps the moisture move through the green profile," he says.

"That is a little bit disruptive because you've got to take a tractor on your green and it can be quite an intrusive method of aeration. However, you can use needle tines throughout the playing season with a very little disruption. You could do a micro tining, a needle tine on the greens through the season and a simple roll after carrying that out, the golfer wouldn't know that the greens had been tined. By doing this during the season, it releases the gas out of the greens and allows oxygen in. It helps with water movement and water percolation through the greens." 

What Is Hollow Tining For?

What about slitting, scarifying and verticutting?

Slitting is another method of aerating the turf and counteracting thatch. Deep slitting is normally carried out through the winter when the ground is softer and more receptive. It’s done with blades that penetrate from 125 to 300 mm. These will be attached to a machine pulled by a tractor. You’ll normally see this treatment on the fairways. Surface slitters penetrate just 40mm. These are designed to keep the surface open during the summer months aiding water percolation.

Scarifying is a way of physically removing thatch using heavy-duty vertically mounted blades.

Verticutting controls thatch build up by vertical mowing. The blades sever horizontal roots preventing lateral growth. This can be done all through the growing season.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?