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Reel Mower Vs. Rotary Mower for High Density Bermuda

By Richard Hoyt ; Updated September 21, 2017
Reel mowers are recommended for keeping dense Bermuda grass short.

As a general rule, a rotary mower is fine for cutting common Bermuda grass. Common Bermuda grass can be allowed to grow taller. A reel mower is best for hybrid, high-density Bermuda grass, such as the grass found on golf courses and playing fields. High-density Bermuda grasses usually need to be cut shorter.

Reel Mower Recommendations

Horticulturalists at the University of Hawaii recommend using a reel mower to cut high-density hybrid Bermuda grasses from ¼ to 1 inch high. Putting greens may be mowed less than 1/8 inches high. Horticulturalists at Texas A&M University say a reel mower should be used to mow high-density Bermuda grasses to a height of 1 inch or less.

Turfgrass specialists at the University of Florida also recommend that reel mowers be used for cutting Bermuda grass. The grass should be mowed one to three times a week if the grass is cut at a height of ¾ to 1 ½ inches high. If the grass is kept ½ inch tall, it should be mowed daily during the spring and summer growing season.

Tifway Hybrids

Tifway and Tifway II are fine, dark-green, high-density Bermuda grasses. A turfgrass specialist at the University of Arizona recommends using a reel mower to mow them from ½ to 1 inch high two to three times a week.

Rotary Mowers on Tifway

If a rotary mower is used on Tifway Bermuda grasses, it should be mowed from 1 ½ to 2 or even 2 ½ inches high. If a rotary mower is used to cut Tifway grasses at these heights, they will look good in the spring and fall, but heavy summer rains can make them look stringy. The reason for this is because the stolons, the above-ground runners of Bermuda grass, do not maintain leaves if 1/3 or less of the grass is removed; a large percentage of the existing leaves are lost.

Santa Ana Bermuda Grass

Santa Ana Bermuda grass has leaves that are slightly wider than the Tifway hybrids. Like the Tifway hybrids, it makes excellent turf. A University of Arizona turfgrass specialist says it should only be cut with a reel mower from 7/16 to 1 inch high. If it grows taller than 1 ¼ inch high, it becomes puffy.


If a rotary mower is used on Bermuda grass, the blades should be kept adjusted and sharp enough to get a smooth, clean cut. The mower should also be powerful enough to handle the height of the grass. While a reel mower is recommended to keep high-density Bermuda grass short, keeping the grass cut low will mean more problems with weeds and pests.