GOLF: Check for smoothness when looking at greens the condition of the

  • Tue Jul 6th, 2010 9:27pm

By Tyrone Hardy For The Enterprise

Greetings. This week our question comes from Jason in Mountlake Terrace.

His question is in reference to the U.S. Open that just concluded at Pebble Beach. He asks about the conditions of the greens. With this question I thought I would express a few thoughts on green condition.

Usually the first question a player asks about course conditions is how the greens are. Players have become obsessed with speed. You hear it all the time: “The greens are running at a 10.”

What does this actually mean? This comment refers to green speed using a stimpmeter as a measuring tool. What the stimpmeter measures is how far a ball rolls. The actual stimpmeter is a device about six feet long and has groove running down the middle. There is a notch in the groove about three-quarters of the way up the device.

This notch is deep enough to hold a golf ball when lying flat on the ground. To measure green speed, a part of the green that is fairly flat is selected. A ball is placed in the notch and the stimpmeter is raised slowly to the point that the ball naturally releases down the groove in the stimpmeter.

The distance the ball travels once on the putting green is the stimpmeter reading. This same procedure is done twice then done the exact same way in the opposite direction. The measurements are averaged and the result is the final reading.

Getting back to the quote, the number 10 refers to the average distance the ball traveled when using the stimpmeter as discussed. The real question is what the stimpmeter should read.

Players are tending to want the speed to be faster and faster. Unfortunately this can be very difficult to achieve on a regular basis at your local courses. What some players don’t realize is that the greens they see on television (such as the ones at the U.S. Open) are a special circumstance and can only happen for a short period of time.

On average the green speed at PGA events run approximately 10 to 12 and can measure up to 14 during major events. The average green speed at the local public course is 7 to 9.

To achieve the green speed of a PGA tour event, the irrigation is reduced and the greens are rolled and mowed progressively lower. The combination of these activities will get the greens to dry out which also will increase green speed. Unfortunately to keep the greens under these conditions for a long period of time will make them very susceptible to disease, pests, discoloration and possible loss of the greens completely.

What players should be looking for is smoothness. Good putting surfaces produce a smooth roll whether at 7 or 12. By keeping the green speed down the course can have healthy greens that don’t require an overabundance of maintenance which will ultimately keep the cost down for the players.

Send your questions to Tyrone Hardy is a Class A PGA member and is the Director of Golf at Ballinger Lake Golf Course. For more innformation about the course, see