Editors' BlogDecember 9, 2008

Golf Course Conditioning

Interesting point by reader Richard Smith on the reaction to Golf Digest's new definition of conditioning for course evaluation. We got many letters about the change, some published in the January issue. The old definition asked our course-evaluation panelists, "How would you rate the playing quality of tees, fairways and greens when you last played the course?" The new definition reads, "How fast, firm and rolling were the fairways, and how firm yet receptive were the greens on the date you played the course?"Golf Digest's new. Smith picked up on the fact that some of the writers assumed that creating these firm conditions meant cutting fairways more closely:

Joel Kachmarek, superintendent of the Tacoma (WA) Country Club, for example, wrote:

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"I mow fairways, approaches and greens closely to encourage the run-up shots, and whenever possible a few brown, dry spots are evident to reinforce this type of play."

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Smith's reaction:

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Hopefully you are not proposing more closely mown fairways and greens. These require more water to maintain their health. At least one of the "Letters to Editor" seem to believe you are encouraging lower grass height.

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Golf Digest Architecture Editor Ron Whitten responds that "firm and fast" does not necessarily mean "tightly mowed."

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Firm and fast has little to do with height of cut. Old bluegrass fairways were cut at one inch, but because the grass blades laid over, in summertime the ball would bounce and roll forever on them. Downgrain, at least. Clearly, bent-grass fairways must be cut shorter than ryegrass or Zoysiagrass fairways--that's the nature of the different types of grasses and their blades--but drier bent-grass fairways could actually be kept a bit higher than one might think and still play firm and fast.

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As for greens, most newest strains require tight mowing or they get "puffy." But if grown in a proper seedbed, so roots get deeper, they don't need extra water. Many are bred these days to be "drought tolerant."

For more of these letters, see the January issue.

--Bob Carney

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