My View

Mowing under dry conditions brings big benefits

Norbert Lischka, Agronomist and Master Greenkeeper, shares his views on course management.

By Norbert Lischka

Mowing in dry conditions will always give best results.  
One of the very first facts I learned during greenkeeping lessons at my greenkeeper school was that cutting under dry condition gives the best results. However, this is unfortunately unusual on our golf courses with most in-play area mowing being undertaken at first light when dew and the last drops from overnight irrigation provide less than ideal conditions for a clean cut. So are we doing the right thing, but not at the right time?

Of course, we want to offer a special service to the golfers by not bothering them. Yet, we should look for other ways to mow as often as possible under dry weather conditions.  To achieve this, we would have to organise the tournament calendar around mowing and we may have to convince the greenkeepers to possibly work on the main cutting days in two shifts to take full advantage of drier conditions. We must inform the committees, managers and golfers about the fact that significantly better playing conditions and financial and temporal savings of up to 30% can be achieved by this change.  The temporal savings can be used, for example, in the morning for removing dew from greens, approaches and fairways, changing holes or raking bunkers. It definitely doesn’t mean that greenkeepers will have less work! 

mowing wet

mowing in dry conditions will eliminate unpleasant wet clumps of grass.

Adjusting the timing of cutting and mowing in dry conditions will provide all of the following benefits:
  • far better playing quality
  • no disturbance for golfers or greenkeepers
  • greater satisfaction for greenkeepers and golfers
  • play and workflow is raised up to 20%
  • cutting intervals can be reduced 
  • elimination of unpleasant wet clumps of grass
  • no need to blow and collect or mow clippings
  • no smearing of soil on the turf surface
  • greatly reduce soil compaction and damage to soil structure
  • maintenance reduced because “prevention is the best medicine”
  • healthier grass that is less prone to stress
  • less fertiliser and water required to healthy turf
  • far less turf disease which thrive in moist conditions
  • reduced fungicide applications
  • labour, the greatest cost, could be reduced up to 30%
  • greenstaff have more time to concentrate on other areas
  • up to 30% reduction of fuel and machine hours
  • less wear on machines = fewer repairs and replacement parts
  • up to 30% longer life of machines = significant savings
  • total maintenance costs are reduced.
One of my clients, Head Greenkeeper Harald Kübler at Golf Club Rheinblick in Germany, conducted an experiment last year: 9 greens were cut under dry conditions in most cases, the other 9 mostly under wet conditions. The difference was remarkable. On the greens cut under dry conditions there were no or hardly any outbreaks of disease during the year. This has to be beneficial, particularly as many are facing a situation where they will be working with a limited number of, and perhaps no, fungicides to treat the diseases on our greens. 

mowing smearing
Mowing in dry conditions will eliminates smearing of soil on the turf surface.
So, how does this work in practice?  It does require a flexible approach to work and play on the golf course.  It would be possible to keep ahead of play by closing 6 to 9 holes one hour during the day after a tournament, or by organising all cutting for late afternoon.  Working to such new schedules is an easier ask on 27 hole golf courses. 

I appreciate that this proposition is not going to be manageable everywhere and all of the time.  However, even if only 50% of the course could be cut later in the day under dry conditions, this would be a significant step forward in order to obtain improved and especially healthier playing surfaces. So give it a try and you will see that most people will be satisfied with this new approach.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not those of the R&A.