As we move into the summer months we are, for the most part, very pleased with the condition of the golf course and the experience that we can offer to the player. Greens as of this morning were rolling 9 feet on the stimpmeter consistently on all putting surfaces. The ideal speed on these greens with their extensive contouring is 8.5’ to 9.5’. Any faster and these greens become very difficult to manage for most players-that is those with a handicap index of 5 or greater (approximately 95% of players).
With the US Open concluding at Chambers Bay this past weekend, I thought a discussion of greenspeeds might be relevant. Chambers Bay with its extensive greens contouring and fescue greens would likely play best at speeds between 9’ and 10’. Maybe even a little slower than this. US Open standards, however, call for green speeds considerably higher than this-12’ or greater is the typical green speed target for US Open preparations. My belief-remember that this is just my opinion-is that hiking the speeds of those putting greens is asking for trouble in the form of annual bluegrass (Poa annua) encroachment and an overall decline in the health of the fine fescue greens. I sometimes wonder why this is even necessary.
I fully understand the appeal of very fast greens-on flat putting surfaces the faster the better. Fast greens are fun. But I think that the design-both contouring and turf type-of a putting surface needs to be taken into consideration when determining optimal playability and I think that in the case of Chambers Bay the USGA erred on their setup requirements. Extensively contoured greens can offer their own set of challenges for the best players without exceptionally fast speeds.
The stimpmeter was originally developed to measure speeds of putting greens in order to ensure that speeds were consistent from green to green. At some point, its use has been wrongfully changed to being a measure of how “good” a putting surface is. Faster means better and in some cases this is simply not true-particularly on a golf course being set up for normal, everyday play by the general public. A golfer playing on fast, heavily contoured greens that are getting the better of them will rarely complain about fast greens. Instead, they will comment about how tough and unfair the pin placements are. Even when the pin placement is, in fact, not unfair. The fact is every pin placement can be a challenge on heavily contoured greens that are rolling fast.
See you on the golf course.
Vincent Dodge CGCS