Putting quality improves when greens are rolled, but mechanical wear becomes a concern when rolling is performed frequently. Fortunately, there are management strategies you can use to get the benefits of rolling while reducing the risk of turf damage.
The unique contouring and shape of each putting green often means there is one direction where rolling can be completed more efficiently. While efficiency is important, the impacts of rolling in the same direction must be considered. Changing the rolling direction each time – similar to how the mowing direction is switched – will alleviate turf stress that can be created by repetitive traffic patterns.
Another strategy that can be used to distribute wear from rollers is to alternate where they start and stop. For example, rather than having rollers start and stop in the cleanup pass every time, the equipment operators can be instructed to stop just short of the cleanup pass every other time the greens are rolled. Stopping a few feet from the edge of the green will not impact playability, but it will protect an area of the green that typically experiences the most stress.
Traffic can also be managed by not rolling the entire putting green. Target rolling is a strategy where only a portion of the green around the hole location is rolled. This makes it possible to reduce mechanical stress on other areas of a green where play is less likely while getting the benefits of rolling in the area where golfers expect to make putts.
Some facilities have developed a plan for how employees assigned to roll should approach each individual green. The USGA article “Create a Roller Guide to Reduce Wear Injury” details how this strategy can be implemented.
As the most stressful part of the golf season approaches, take the time to implement strategies that manage roller traffic. Even the smallest adjustments can have a positive impact on turf health.