Rough mowers are an essential piece of golf course maintenance equipment. As the name suggests, rough mowers are designed to mow the “rough,” which is the area surrounding the fairway and green.
The rough comprises of much thicker and tougher grass than the fairway and green. Attempting to mow it with the wrong type of mower is more likely to result in a damaged mowing blade than the desired cut.
In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about rough mowers. Along with how these specialized pieces of equipment make maintaining roughs a breeze.
Why Do You Need a Rough Mower?
Each piece of golf course equipment is specially designed to perform its role to a high standard. You don’t need to get up close to a well-maintained golf course to know how impressive the finish is.
It’ll come as no surprise that it takes a lot of man-hours and several pieces of equipment to get an entire golf course into tip-top shape.
Some of the standard equipment superintendents use are; greens rollers to achieve a perfect putting green. Aerators to ensure turf can get all the nutrients it needs. And fairway mowers to reach a uniform, smooth fairway.
The rough around the outside of the fairway and green is a lot thicker than the rest of the course. Therefore, a specialized mower is needed to mow through the grass.
Trying to use a mower that is not designed to mow thick materials will likely damage the blades or worse.
Not to mention, the rough area outside of the fairway can become a graveyard of lost golf balls. Mowing over a golf ball with a fairway mower could be an expensive mistake!
In short, rough mower blades are more robust, as they’re made from heavier-duty materials. They are designed to cut through much thicker and denser material than other mowers.
They also typically have thicker wheels, higher-horsepower engines, and more flexibility over the height of cut you achieve.
Types of Rough Mowers
As with most golf maintenance equipment, there are various models and types of rough mowers.
For the most part, rough mowers are split into two categories:
Push or Walk-Behind Rough Mowers
They’re also less expensive to purchase and maintain. This can be a deciding factor for smaller courses. Or, if you’re trying to decide how many mowers you need.
Some larger golf courses use a ridealong rough mowers along with a push mower. If there are areas that cannot be reached with a larger mower, they come in useful.
Whether or not you need/want a push rough mower will primarily come down to these factors:
1. How large an area you need to mow, and
2. If there are any hard to reach spots.
Ridealong or Pull Rough Mowers
Most golf courses use ridealong rough mowers. This is primarily because most golf courses have large areas of rough, so it’s the quickest and most efficient solution.
They will typically also have a push rough mower in their equipment shed. Push rough mowers can reach those tight spots we talked about, and can quickly mow certain areas.
The obvious downside is the cost. But, depending on how much time your superintendents spend mowing the rough, there is almost certainly going to be a positive ROI in the long-term as they save so much time.
The Importance of Maintaining the "Rough" on a Golf Course
The “rough” on a golf course is the area outside of a fairway. For you golfers, that’s the area you don’t want your golf ball to end up in!
Landing in the rough means you’ve missed the fairway. Not only do a lot of golfers lose balls in the rough, but it’s typically hard to perform a shot that’ll get your ball back on the green.
Roughs are deliberately allowed to grow to thicker and higher than fairways and greens. They’re used to define the boundary outside of the fairway and take speed off the ball if it lands in the rough.
Most superintendents spend a fair amount of time maintaining roughs on their courses. Just because they look unkempt compared to a fairway, it doesn’t mean it’s not mowed on a regular basis.
In fact, a lot of courses use what’s called a “first cut” and a “second cut.” These are different height cuts of the rough. The first cut will be next to the green and lower than the second cut.
They do this to make rescuing the ball more difficult the further it lands into the rough. Kind of like a tiered punitive effect for straying from the green.
Even if you’re not going to add varying lengths to your rough, you’ll need to cut it to keep it from getting out of control.
There’s no standard to how long a rough should get, or what types of grass it consists of. From an aesthetic and practical standpoint, it’s important to maintain the rough using a rough mower.