Why Do Greenkeepers Sand Greens?

Wallasey Golf Club Course Manager John Mcloughlin explains why greenkeepers sand greens

Greenkeeper pictured sanding and working on greens
(Image credit: BIGGA)

Golfers love nothing more than a perfectly smooth golf green and may ask why their greens have been covered in sand - so why do greenkepers do this?

It's fairly simple and is all done to enhance the health and playability of the putting surfaces. Sanding on its own can smooth out the greens but it usually comes with hollow tining where a core is plugged out of the green. Sand is then applied to the greens to dilute organic matter below the green canopy, which can promote disease if not managed. 

"There’s a couple of reasons," Wallasey GC Course Manager John Mcloughlin tells Golf Monthly on why greenkeepers sand greens. "One is for smoothness, so obviously the sand can take out any imperfections and pitch marks and old scar marks from disease. So it aids as a sort of a blanket to smooth out the greens and it also dilutes organic matter.

"So in golf greens, grass creates a thatch layer through dead and decaying shoots and roots and old fibrous plant material. Greens can become really spongy through excess organic matter and by adding sand within that organic matter layer it dilutes it and is a way of firming up the greens. Although a lot of golfers don't really enjoy the greens when they’re sandy it is a necessity to smooth out the greens and sort of a long term process of ongoing sanding the greens will improve.

"Clubs have maintenance weeks. We have a maintenance week in March where we will target the greens and do some verti-draining and put a lot more sand on in that week. And then we also have a maintenance week in October where we will put more sand on and then through the season we’ll put dustings of sand on.

"We now try and keep the playing season from April to October minimal disruption and we top dress monthly. We'll top dress in the morning and by the time we’ve pushed that in and watered it in, golfers won’t really notice that they’ve been sanded and what we find is a little bit of sand on the greens to putt on, it actually can smooth out the greens. 

"It is a necessity if you want to good quality, all round greens. You can either do a heavy top dressing or what we call if we’re not putting lots of sand on, we’d just 'dust' over the greens so it’s still a top dressing but just a light top dressing."

Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016. He graduated in Sports Journalism in 2016 and currently manages the Golf Monthly news, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Elliott has interviewed some huge names in the golf world including Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjorn, Bernd Wiesberger and Scotty Cameron as well as a number of professionals on the DP World and PGA Tours. He has also covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as three Open Championships including at Carnoustie in 2018 when he was inside the ropes with Tiger Woods. He has played 31 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Old Head and Alwoodley. He currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 4-6. His golfing highlight is making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, and he has made one hole-in-one.

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Honma TR20

3 wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max

2 iron: Mizuno MP-18 MMC Fli-Hi

Irons: Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x