One of the most pitiful moments I've ever witnessed on a golf course happened a couple years ago. I was playing in the Saturday morning game at Sandridge Golf Club's Lakes Course when on an adjacent hole, a cry went up from one of the other golfers in the group. Let's call him Bob. An otherwise decent player and agreeable guy, Bob was fed up with the rough. After chunking a shot from a few yards off the fairway into a pond, Bob lashed out: "You can't hit the f***ing ball solid out of this s***!" He followed up with more bellyaching about how the rough wasn't consistent throughout the course. Enraged by his own poor play, Bob had forgotten one of the most straightforward truths about golf course maintenance: rough is rough for a reason. No matter what dictionary you use, words like "uneven" and "irregular" come up, as do negatives like "not smooth" and "not gentle." Bob is far from alone in his erroneous view.
On the side of the angels, Kyle Harris, who oversees the maintenance of Streamsong Resort's Red and Blue courses and is one of the most thoughtful golf people I know, put the issue simply earlier this week:
Same area producing same results is the definition of "fair." This picture shows rough. Random results with no way to predict the lie. Turf mowed at a consistent height - regardless of that height - is more correctly considered fairway. Rough is rough when difficulty is random. pic.twitter.com/fzzfq3gXl2— Kyle Harris (@SirPuttsalot) July 9, 2019
The bottom line: if you hit a ball in the rough, you are not entitled to much comfort. You are not entitled to be able to reach the green. You are not entitled to get a hybrid or fairway wood on the ball. You are not entitled to be sure whether you have a slow lie or a flier lie. On courses where it's a factor, proper rough is as much a psychological obstacle as a physical one. Uncertainty is part of the difficulty. Plan accordingly. Don't like it? The range is that way, chief.