An ace makes the holes

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A pair of Utah 36-holers rely on Foley Air2G2 to help provide a blueprint for any course that needs a better aeration solution.

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July 12, 2021

Soldier Hollow and Wasatch golf courses provide 72 holes in Midway, Utah, southeast of Salt Lake City.
© courtesy of SOLDIER HOLLOW GOLF COURSE and NATE JAMES

Depending on perspective, a decade can feel like a blink or an eternity. In the case of golf course superintendents Nate James and Lance Larson, who were born about a decade apart, the difference in life and work experience leans more toward the latter. James is 42. Larson is 52. That decade is enough to have provided them different approaches about maintenance and equipment.

James, for example, tracked the development of the Air2G2 soil air injector and as soon as it was available in his corner of Utah, “it took me no time to purchase one,” says James, the superintendent at 36-hole Soldier Hollow Golf Course in Midway. Larson is the superintendent at 36-hole Wasatch Golf Course, also in Midway. Both facilities are managed by the Utah Parks Department and the two superintendents work together. James tried to sell Larson on purchasing a second Air2G2.

“Lance isn’t quick to jump on anything newer without doing a little bit of research,” James says. “I had to go make that sale. I had never been able to get him to sign off on anything, nor have I since, but I got him to sign off on that pretty easily, just because the machine makes sense.”

Within 24 hours, a pair of Air2G2s were on their way.

“Any time you can get air and water into the greens without the disruption, and you can do it in play in the heart of the season,” James says, “it’s just a no-brainer.”

James and Larson have incorporated the Air2G2 into their aeration process for each of the last four golf seasons. They used it three times the first year, five last year around the pandemic, and have six uses on the schedule for this year. The machine is easy enough to learn, James says, that almost all of his 30-member crew can operate it after learning on a single green, two greens tops. Starting at 5 a.m., they can finish nine holes in a day, or 12 holes without play.

Superintendent Nate James says almost all of his crew members figured out the Air2G2 in one or two greens.
© courtesy of SOLDIER HOLLOW GOLF COURSE and NATE JAMES

“Water infiltration was the biggest thing that we saw,” James says. “We have our localized dry spots on a handful of greens — we know when they’re going to pop up and it’s guaranteed that they’re going to pop up, and with the Air2G2, we were able to mitigate those localized dry spots without changing our surfactants. We didn’t do anything else differently. It was just getting that air down there, fracking that, breaking up those areas and being able to get movement down through the profile.”

The ROI is measurable, too. “We’ve definitely reduced our wetting agents,” James says. “Because we can get the water down in the greens in the summer, we’re not throwing water and it’s not holding in the top layers.”

Jim Nedin is a 55-year industry pro who worked as a superintendent in and around Pittsburgh during the 1970s before heading over to equipment applications and private consulting. He says the Air2G2 “completes” the aerification process.

“It would be best used in that way, that you aerify to create the openings, whether it be solid tining, needle tining, core aeration, and then you connect the dots — you go down three to five inches and you connect the dots by subsurface aerification, and you do that on a periodic basis.

“I like to look at the subsurface through soil testing. If you can get air down into that channel, the black layer goes from that dark brownish-reddish to a lighter tone, because we’re infiltrating air, which is creating porosity, and then creating that respiration that’s needed. So the toxins are leaching out.”

At Soldier Hollow and Wasatch, the toxins are leaching out, the water usage is dropping and the greens — sand-based at Soldier Hollow, push-up at the older Wasatch — have never appeared healthier.

closely with his assistants — Mike Johnson, who Consider that a lesson learned — and passed along to the next generation.