I’ve noticed that, when training new employees, one of the things they always seem to find interesting is how we use the daily mowing direction in terms of a clock.

A clock with hands, of course – 10 to 4. 8 to 2. 9 to 3. 12 to 6.

If you observe the facial expression of a new employee while you’re explaining mowing direction to him, you undoubtedly will encounter a smile and a relieved little sigh. It almost always seems to comfort them. Relax them.

Why is this? Well, for one thing, starting a new job is stressful. It’s a nervous experience for anyone, no matter what the job is. Learning to mow a green, in particular, if you’ve never done it before, can be quite nerve-racking.

Greens, with their smooth and perfect surfaces, are undoubtedly the most intimidating thing to newbies on a golf course. In a way, golf course greens are unnatural. Foreign. Not quite what nature had intended. But they also stand for what humans can do to the land to alter it in a way that can seem, at first encounter, almost magical.

But let’s get back to the clock. Why does the clock relax them?

My theory is that it takes this magical, somewhat alien chunk of green perfection before them and makes it kind of real. It brings it down to Earth a bit. Makes it relatable. They look at the green and picture it as a clock. 12:00 at the top. 6:00 on the bottom. They get it. Suddenly it isn’t so intimidating anymore. Thus, the little laugh and sigh.

But, other than relaxing new employees, why do we change the direction when we mow? What are the reasons?

The first one is no doubt the driving force behind why we started doing it in the first place. Some lad in Scotland 150 years ago no doubt realized that his same mowing direction was starting to burn into the grass. It was beginning to wear. He changed his direction. Then changed it again the next day. Voila. Problem solved. But how could he remember which direction he mowed yesterday? Or the day before?

Cue the clock.

So, obviously, we change mowing direction as to not wear or burn a pattern into the turf. But are there other reasons?

How about cutting the grass blades at different angles? Just as we adjust a razor in our hands when shaving, we change the angle in which we cut the blades. Obvious enough.

But are there other reasons? Reasons maybe we don’t think of as often?

How about aesthetics? Everybody loves the crisscross lines on a golf course or a sports field. I think we’d change direction simply for the look of it, even it did nothing to alter wear or the angle of the cut.

How about compaction? Although rutting may not occur on a golf course green mowed in the same direction daily (never done it, so I’m not sure), no doubt compaction might become a problem (at least when triplexing) with those tires going over and over the same spots on a daily basis.

And what about grain? Let’s just say I don’t exactly belong to the Johnny Miller Greens Grain club, but there probably is a hint of truth to the fact that the grain on greens can affect ball roll.

I do belong to the other club that believes that grain on a green, because of the 125 other cultural practices we do to our “pads,” as well as the extremely low heights we cut them at, isn’t really the problem Johnny might have you believe.

In any event, next time you’re training that newbie on greens mowing, look for that little smile when you start your mowing direction talk.

It’s always there. Like clockwork.