Just Say No To The House Of Pain

By Chris Hartwiger and Patrick O'Brien, agronomists, Southeast Region
August 14, 2012

(L) It does not take too long before 1.5” rough becomes a 3” jail. (R) Average golfers enjoy golf more with lower rough. It is worth remembering that more enjoyment is good for the bottom line.

Why deep rough is deep trouble for golfers.

As heavy rains have soaked golf courses in much of the southeast over the last three weeks, one lesson in golf course setup has been repeated in numerous southern cities. Bermudagrass that has been heavily watered by rainfall and exposed to 90 degree plus temperatures is not enjoyable; it is “The House of Pain.” Heavy and thick bermudagrass rough not only slows play and increases difficulty, it also diminishes the enjoyment of your best customers. The picture to the right shows the results of missing multiple rough mowings due to rain and the havoc it wreaks with golf.  

In this brief update, we offer encouragement to golf courses to make the commitment to avoid as much as possible maintaining thick bermudagrass rough in the summer months. To encourage support for this idea, we offer a glimpse of statistics for the majority of male and female golfers.  

Male Golfers

  • 70 percent of male golfers have handicaps higher than 10 (Men's USGA Handicap Statistics )
  • The median handicap index is 14.5.
  • Male golfers with a Course Handicap of approximately 20 hit the ball an average of 200 yards off the tee with carry and roll. The longest par 4 these golfers are able to reach is 370 yards (USGA Handicap System Manual) .

Female Golfers

  • Approximately 79 percent of female golfers have handicaps higher than 20 (Women's USGA Handicap Statistics )
  • The median handicap index is 27.
  • Female golfers with a Course Handicap of approximately 24 hit the ball an average of 150 yards with carry and roll. The longest par 4 they can reach consistently is 280 yards. USGA Handicap System Manual  

We have found that the best rough management programs contain several key components:

  • Advance planning based upon your clientele or membership.
  • Assessment of equipment.
  • Contingency plans should rough get out of hand due to inclement weather.
  • Clear communication with those who play the course regarding the goals of the rough management program.

Management of the rough is always a big story in the late summer in the southeast. Sometimes rainfall allows things to get out of hand, other times rough is kept in check. Regardless of the summer, the desire to have deep rough is not embraced by most golfers. As more golf courses embrace the idea of shorter rough in the summer, maybe “The House of Pain” will become “The Land of Fun.” 

For more information on this topic and others, please contact Chris Hartwiger (chartwiger@usga.org) or Patrick O’Brien (patobrien@usga.org).

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