Now that we have experienced warmer temperatures, turfgrass growth has accelerated. Problems with aeration healing due to cold temperatures are no longer a topic of conversation. Overall conditions have been very good, and golfers are enjoying their favorite course. However, on recent Turf Advisory Service visits, the height, thickness and ultimately the difficulty of cool-season rough has been the most prominent topic of conversation. It is easy to understand the golfer’s frustration with the rough. It may be more difficult to understand that superintendents are frustrated as well. They just cannot keep up with the rough.
Weather patterns in the last month have been ideal for the growth of cool-season rough. We have received ample rainfall for rough growth. This rainfall has prevented normal maintenance routines from being followed, and the rough is growing as much as 1/2 inch per day. Thus, if the rough is being mowed at 2.5 inches and it takes four to five days for your maintenance staff to get all of the rough mowed, the rough may be 4-5 inches tall by the time it gets mowed again, and yes, this is extremely penal. In many cases, the proposed solution is to simply lower the height of cut. This will reduce the severity of the rough immediately after it is cut, but it will still grow quickly before it is mowed again. More importantly, if height of cut is lowered too much, it can lead to problems with turfgrass quality later in the growing season.
There are a couple of options available to help with this situation. In some instances, growth regulators are being applied to roughs to slow growth. A single application can suppress clipping yields up to three weeks. While discoloration of the rough may result, this is temporary and the rough will be more manageable. Mowing the rough more frequently may also help, but many facilities have neither the equipment nor the manpower for this to be accomplished. Mowing a “cleanup pass” of the rough around fairways and green surrounds can also help to reduce complaints. Often overlooked is the additional manpower that is required for blowing the rough to disperse clippings. If heavy clippings are left to lie in the rough, they can smother the underlying grass and their appearance is awful. This can absorb many labor-hours that cannot be used for other tasks on the golf course.
The bottom line is that spring is a period of accelerated rough growth on cool-season golf courses. With the lack of any prolonged periods of hot or dry weather, this growth rate has not slowed down. While different practices can be put in place to mitigate the difficulty of the rough, a change in the weather will have the greatest impact; so be patient and keep it in the fairway!
Information on the USGA’s Turf Advisory Service
Contact the Green Section Staff