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By Bob Vavrek, senior agronomist, North-Central Region
July 16, 2012

Try rolling the greens instead of mowing when the turf is under stress from extreme heat and high humidity. This is an effective way to maintain speed and smoothness, while reducing mechanical stress to the putting surface.

Old habits are very hard to break, especially when it comes to maintenance practices for putting greens. Greens are cut every day during the peak months of play because golfers expect (actually demand) consistent playing surfaces. Of course, soft, wet greens will not be mowed during an all day downpour, but barring a deluge, the mowing of greens is the first order of business each day at every course across the region from May through September. 

Perhaps this is why so many superintendents find it difficult to suspend mowing greens for even a single day during periods of intense heat stress. They have no problems with skipping a topdressing application, brushing or vertical mowing operation when temperatures eclipse triple digits, but having the golfers play unmowed greens just doesn’t sit right with many folks. 

However, I have observed that the handful of most experienced and successful superintendents have no issues with keeping a mower off a green during hot weather, especially those that manage old, push-up bentgrass/Poa putting surfaces. Having the ability to adapt maintenance practices to highly variable weather conditions is partly what elevates this group of turf managers into the elite of their profession. 

The presence of high quality rollers at most golf facilities should lessen the anxiety of not mowing greens each and every day during an extended period of exceptionally hot weather. Under these conditions, rolling a green or rolling only part of a green around the current day’s hole location is far less stressful versus a mowing operation. In fact, a number of courses throughout the region have found that rolling can be substituted for mowing once or twice a week any time of the season without any significant decrease of green speed. 

Unfortunately, we are experiencing another transition zone summer across the north central tier of states. Poa annua greens are struggling, and it’s only the middle of July. Who knows what the next four to six weeks of summertime will bring? At least the days are becoming shorter, though no less hot or humid. 

Don’t be afraid to back away from mowing when turf begins to decline. You might find yourself part of the group who looks back with satisfaction with what they did, or in this case, didn’t do, to save greens during 100+ degree weather versus those who look back with regret wondering what went wrong. 

Here’s hoping for a break in the weather and time for all to catch our breath. 

Source: Bob Vavrek, or 262-797-8743 

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