The Rough

Fish gotta swim. Birds gotta fly. Members have to complain about the rough being too long when it’s thick and healthy. And that it’s too brown and thin later in the summer when conditions are dry.

Despite our whining, rough at Niakwa is maintained to very specific standards throughout the golf season.  Read More>> 

Mowing Standards 

Rough is mowed 5 days a week. It takes two full time employees a full week, 8 hours a day, to cut the rough. One employee works the front nine and the other works the back nine. Three times a week an extra mower is sent out to cut 18 foot wide swaths along the fairways. This helps to keep the rough at a consistent length as a lot of growth can happen between cuts.

It’s a Sisyphean task, though, because Monday morning the whole process starts over.

The first cut, or intermediate rough is the longer grass closest to the fairways. It’s cut to a height of 1.5 inches. The minimum diameter of a golf ball is 1.68 inches, so you should be able to find your ball without a problem in the first cut of rough.

Intermediate or First Cut of Rough

The secondary, or primary rough, is cut to a height of 2.5 inches, which is higher than the diameter of a golf ball. That can be a problem.

Primary Rough

The rough around tees and bunkers is cut to a height of 3 inches. The secondary cut around greens and the dew strips in front of tees are cut every second day to a height of .900 inches.

The guy who cuts my lawn keeps his mower set at 3 inches in July.

Depending on weather conditions these rough heights may be varied during the season to keep things healthy and consistent.


Rough only receives one application of fertilizer per year. It’s a slow release blend and is mostly nitrogen. Fertilizer keeps the rough looking good and helps the grass compete with weeds. Geese also like the nitrogen.

Why is there rough in the first place?  

Originally golf courses didn’t have rough differentiated from fairways. Grass was trimmed by organic methods (sheep and goats) as opposed to mechanical methods (mowers).  With the development of modern mowers, golf course architects and superintendents can define fairways, vary rough heights and pattern holes. Niakwa’s design and maintenance standards feature all of this and more.

Organic Mowers

For more information on rough maintenance and other course standards, the Niakwa Course Maintenance Standards Manual is available on our website


PS Rough or no rough, we’re still responsible to bring in our round in under four hours.


« back