Putting Green Maintenance: Mowing Practices Determine Putting Quality

Posted by Demetro Carbone on October 31, 2013

Regardless of other practices, proper mowing is required for good putting greens. Proper mowing includes daily mowing, daily changing of mowing patterns, mowing at the correct height, precise adjustment of mowers, daily cleaning and sharpening of mowers, training of mower operators and visual inspection of results. Mowing is the single most important practice in greens maintenance.

Mowing height is the only variable in proper mowing practices. Mowing height is dependent on grass species, the amount of traffic, environmental conditions and the desired speed of greens. If fast greens are desired for tournament play, mowing heights can be lowered below the recommended minimums for a short period. However, other practices such as brushing, verticutting and rolling may also be used to increase the speed of greens. Where heavy play is a factor, extremely short mowing heights can only be tolerated for a short time.

Daily mowing at recommended heights produces dense, fine textured putting greens without shocking the turf. Less frequent mowing results in the removal of an excessive amount of leaf tissue at each mowing and puts the grass under stress. Removal of half of the leaf tissue at a single mowing can result in severely reduced root growth for several days.  Changing mowing patterns at each mowing helps to eliminate graininess, to reduce wheel or mower wear and compaction and to establish a target by setting the green apart from the apron or collar. Where triplex greens mowers are used, the final cut around the perimeter of the green should be moved in and out at least the width of a wheel each day, or should only be mowed on alternate days. Some superintendents make this perimeter cut with a walking greens mower to reduce wear and compaction.

Even with daily mowing at the proper height, poor mower adjustment produces unslightly greens and poor putting conditions. Precise mower adjustment and sharpening is essential to produce a clean, uniform cut on putting greens. Immediately after use, each mower should be thoroughly cleaned, height and cut adjustments checked, reels lapped-in and other maintenance performed as needed to have the mower ready for use the next day. If this routine is followed, equipment failures can be prevented or corrected before the next use. However, standby mowers should always be available in case a mower is taken out of service for several days.