When determining appropriate mowing heights, there is a fine line between keeping the golf course happy and the golfers happy. Agronomically, there are several factors that determine height of cut (HOC). What kind of grass are you mowing? Are you fresh out of an overseed or heading into a summer transition? What are the environmental stresses or lack thereof? In regards to playability the questions you must ask are: What is the average handicap of the golfer? What are green speed expectations? Does the rough need to “catch” balls from rolling into the desert? Unfortunately, often times, the two sides demand different HOCs, leaving the superintendent with the task of finding balance.
When you overseed Bermudagrass, you effectively suffocate and starve the plant for the better part of 8 months. The Ryegrass (on fairways, rough, and tees) and the Poa Trivialis (on greens) takes all the water and nutrients from the soil in addition to blocking out nearly all the sunlight to the Bermudagrass below. In order to allow the Bermudagrass a fighting chance come late spring and summer, we must get HOCs as low as possible. Now, this conflicts with many golfers’ requests of higher HOCs in fairways and rough; which is where the balance thing comes into play.
My goal moving forward towards transition is to get heights as low as I can, without completely sacrificing the experience of the golfer. Understand that there is reason for these height drops, and they have great impact to the overall health of the golf course.
The next step of ensuring a good transition is spraying out the golf course; in other words, chemically eradicating the Ryegrass from the course so that the Bermudagrass can grow without competition. Check back soon for a post explaining that process!