Tag Archives: Adam C. Slick

A Closer Look at Frequency-of-Clip: Making mower adjustments

An operator checks the frequency-of-clip (FOC) setting on his mower during the 2012 Professional Golfers Association (PGA) Championship of Canada held at Country Hills Golf Club in Calgary. Photo © Scott MacArthur


By Adam C. Slick

Traditionally, the only way to change frequency-of-clip was to change reel blade count and/or alter mow speed. To help superintendents increase frequency-of-clip (FOC) quickly and easily, equipment manufacturers have recently added blades to standard reels, with some manufacturers adding 15- and 14-blade reels to their lineup.

In addition to changing blade count and mow speed, all mowers offer some level of FOC control, most using gears and pulleys.

Some manufacturers have taken FOC controls one step further. For example, on some mowers, superintendents can adjust the FOC on a liquid crystal display (LCD) screen in a matter of seconds. Since some reels are driven from individual motors separate from the tractor, the FOC remains constant, even if the speed of the mower changes.

In the end, frequency-of-clip is another equipment setting superintendents can adjust to adapt mowers to course conditions. If you have not experimented with FOC on your equipment, it is definitely worth exploring. A little adjustment here and there can make a big difference on your turf.

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A Closer Look at Frequency-of-Clip: Getting started

An operator mows a green at Sage Valley Golf Club in Graniteville, S.C. The course consistently ranks as one of the top-rated in North America. Photo © Dan Brice


By Adam C. Slick

Although frequency-of-clip (FOC) is a very precise formula, it is not always an exact science on the turf. Superintendents new to FOC will work with their technicians to experiment with different settings, usually moving up or down 10 to 20 per cent at a time. To monitor changes, superintendents may use a prism to evaluate stragglers and record Stimpmeter readings after FOC changes. Some superintendents actually weigh clippings to compare grass volumes at different FOCs.

After experimenting, superintendents will arrive at an ideal series of FOC settings for:
● daily play;
● post-topdressing or aerifying;
● tournaments; or
● severe weather conditions.

Some mowers allow up to six FOC presets that can be programmed into the mower’s control box.

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A Closer Look at Frequency-of-Clip: Practical application

Some mowers allow superintendents to adjust frequency-of-clip (FOC) from a liquid crystal display (LCD) screen on the mower handle. Photo © Brian Hajas. Photo courtesy Jacobsen
By Adam C. Slick

Traditionally, a superintendent wanting to increase ball speed would likely lower the height of cut, double-cut the grass, and/or use a greens roller. Not only do these practices cause extra stress on the grass and sacrifice turf health, but they also require the use of more labour, water, and chemicals. A superintendent preparing for a tournament can tighten his frequency-of-clip (FOC) significantly to increase ball roll without lowering the height of cut.

“For an upcoming tournament, I wanted to increase our green speeds by 76 to 102 mm (3 to 4 in.), but I wasn’t keen on lowering the height of cut and we didn’t have the time to double-cut,” says Mike Rienzi, superintendent in Gulf Shores, Ala. “My technician suggested we tighten up the FOC on our walkers. I watched him do it, and it only took about five seconds. We went and used Stimpmeter readings for the greens after mowing and we found we actually increased green speed by more than 102 mm. I was floored at how easy and effective FOC adjustment can be.”

In daily conditions, superintendents can adjust FOC to maintain current ball speed and actually raise the height of cut. Trevor Broersma, superintendent at Washington National Golf Club outside of Seattle, started experimenting with FOC adjustments in early 2012.

“By playing around with the frequency-of-clip on our walking greens mowers, we were able to raise our height of cut from 2.921 to 3.33 mm (0.115 to 0.130 in.) and still maintain a 3.4-m [11-ft] roll on our greens,” he says. “We also found that with the higher clip rate, we don’t have to mow every day. We are now rolling every other day, which is giving us the most consistent speeds we’ve ever had.”

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A Closer Look at Frequency-of-Clip: FOC and height of cut

By Adam C. Slick

On fairways and other higher-cut areas, some turf professionals suggest frequency-of-clip (FOC) should be within 10 per cent (higher or lower) of the height of cut. At these higher heights, when the FOC is greater than 10 per cent of the height, short, choppy wave patterns may appear, known as marcelling. Keeping FOC approximately equal to or less than the height of cut eliminates marcelling and improves ball roll.

On greens and lower heights of cut, the relationship between FOC and height of cut is not as intrinsically related. Superintendents and technicians should experiment with different settings to see what works best.

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A Closer Look at Frequency-of-Clip: What FOC means in the grass

A higher frequency-of-clip (FOC) means less distance between clips, more grass cut, and increased ball roll. A lower FOC means more distance between clips, less grass cut, and a slower ball roll. A higher number setting on the mower indicates a lower FOC. Image © Brian Hajas. Image courtesy Jacobsen


By Adam C. Slick

As the mower travels forward, the bedknife pushes against the grass in front of it. At the same time, the reel blade is gathering grass as it moves toward the bedknife. The opposing forces gather the grass together at the shear point. After the grass is cut, it springs back into place—this cutting action produces very small peaks and valleys in the grass. Although indistinguishable by the human eye, these high and low points have a profound effect on ball roll.

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