COURSE CARE
A Plea From The Rough: Keep It Reasonable July 8, 2014 By Patrick O’Brien

Fertilizer, rainfall, and saturated soil conditions too wet for mowing can result in out-of-control bermudagrass growth that creates unnecessarily difficult golf conditions and slows play.

Golf becomes a much harder test for me every summer. My scores skyrocket due to that nasty bermudagrass rough. I hate tall bermudagrass rough because every hole has two sides for my game, the left rough and the right rough. I can’t avoid it and it takes longer to play, too.

Bermudagrass just adores the high heat and humidity in July and August. The grass grows so fast that I have seen golfers disappear in it. Superintendents do mow it but they seldom have enough staff or equipment to get around doing it twice a week, which is what really needs to happen to keep the rough playable.

I remember the old days when five- or seven-gang pull-behind mowers could cut rough in a speedy manner. However, those rough mowers are not as common today. The specialized rotary or reel mowers that are commonplace today can mow roughs, but more time is required.

Bermudagrass growth is vigorous in the summer.  Add fertilizer and enough rain to disrupt the mowing schedule and the grass can get away in a hurry. I wish a rough grass existed that required 70 to 80 percent less mowing than bermudagrass. It would not only help my blood pressure but improve the pace of play for everyone. Research is underway at Clemson, Auburn, and the University of Tennessee to find something to spray on the bermudagrass to slow down growth during the summertime. Additionally, breeding work at the University of Florida is underway to find improved bahiagrass varieties for use in golf course roughs. A solution can’t happen fast enough for me.

Source: Patrick O’Brien (patobrien@usga.org) and Chris Hartwiger (chartwiger@usga.org)

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