Fairway And Rough Heights Vary By The Season

By Todd Lowe, senior agronomist, Florida Region
August 7, 2013

Bermudagrass roughs mowed at 2 inches may be fine at times of the year when the turf is thin and not actively growing, but is often too difficult to play from during summer months when warm, humid weather produces a thick, lush stand of turf.

Mowing is one of the most basic yet important management practices for providing desirable golfing conditions. Mowing height is determined by several factors including type of playing surface (i.e., green, tee, fairway, rough), grass species and desired level of quality. Another factor that greatly affects mowing height in Florida is the time of year. 

There are ranges of appropriate mowing heights for each playing surface. The Best Management Practices for the Enhancement of Environmental Quality on Florida Golf Courses lists recommended mowing heights for Florida golf facilities. Fairways are generally maintained at 0.5 inch throughout most of the year. Lower mowing increases shoot tillering which increases leaf density, and this provides a “tighter” playing surface as the golf ball sits higher in the turf canopy. Conversely, higher mowing provides a more cushioned ball lie where the ball nestles down further into the turf canopy. 

Golf course roughs in Florida are generally maintained at or slightly below 1.5 inches. The turf canopy of bermudagrass and seashore paspalum becomes more open as mowing height increases. Warm-season turfgrass roughs maintained above 1.75 inches can be quite challenging for the average golfer (especially during warmer months when the turf is growing most vigorously) as the golf ball can sometimes disappear within a thick rough. 

Summer months bring warm, humid conditions that cause the turf to grow at an accelerated pace. Some golf facilities maintain slightly lower mowing heights during the summer months to improve aesthetics and playability. Fairways can be mowed from 0.38 to 0.45 inches while roughs are maintained between 1.0 to 1.25 inches in summer. Mowing heights are raised slightly in the fall, as soil temperatures decrease and the turf thins from peak season cart traffic. Mowing height can be increased to as high as 0.7 inches in fairways and up to 2.0 inches in roughs to improve conditions for the peak golfing season. 

Keep in mind that these are general guidelines for Florida. There are a number of other factors that may dictate the specific mowing heights and level of desired playability at your facility. 

Source:  Todd Lowe, (tlowe@usga.org)

Information on the USGA’s Turf Advisory Service

Contact the Green Section Staff

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