Reel mower performance depends on proper set-up and adjustment procedures. An error of .010 of an inch (.25 mm), in height end-to-end, or from one cutting unit to another, is visible as a mismatch on many golf course greens. Although there are design variations in cutting units, most require the same basic procedures. A surface plate, accurate height of cut tools and proper instruction are essential for setting up a cutting unit. See also: Maintaining Reel Mower Performance.
Prior to setting up a cutting unit, the term "height of cut" and how it relates to performance must be understood. In the maintenance shop, a setting is done measuring height of cut from a hard, level surface to the cutting edge. This is called "bench set" height of cut. This height is normally chosen through experience. It factors in turf conditions, seasonal changes, and playability requirements. Keep in mind that two similar cutting units of the same or different manufacturers can be bench set the same but may cut at different effective heights due to a configuration difference (i.e., weight, rollers, attitude etc.).
This is the actual height the grass has been cut. Making an accurate height measurement on the turf is difficult due to many variables. A true base is simply not present. If the surface is uneven, spongy or varies in density, color variations in the turf may appear in the form of a streak. This is due to the effective height of cut being too low for the existing turf conditions. To correct problems, start or change a cultural practice, change cutting unit configuration or raise the bench set height of cut. The lower your height of cut, the more predictable and smooth the turf surface must be.