Green speed is one of the most sensitive and misunderstood topics
in golf. Golfers see lightning-fast greens on television or hear claims about
green speeds at a course they admire and think that’s an ideal their home club
should apply, too.
What they may not realize is that those conditions require significant resources to deliver, may last for only a short period of
time and are not appropriate for the vast majority of golf courses or golfers.
There is also a lot of misinformation about green speeds, so
golfers shouldn’t believe everything they hear from their playing partners or
television broadcasters. Here are five things every golfer should know about
The appropriate green speed for
a particular course depends on the putting green contours, grass type,
maintenance budget and skill level of the golfers playing – along with numerous
Trying to make greens faster than they should be leads to
higher maintenance costs, turf damage, lost hole locations and slower pace of
play, which means they’re less enjoyable.
Sacrificing other aspects of putting green quality in the
pursuit of speed just doesn’t make sense much of the time.
greens are comprised of living plants that change and perform differently from
season to season and even day to day. Temperatures, humidity, rainfall and
routine maintenance practices all influence daily green speed.
the same green speed throughout the year is impossible. Letting a target number
dictate management practices is a recipe for damaged greens and undesirable
of the most important things to know about green speed measurements is that
they should not be used to compare one golf course with another. A green speed
that is perfect for one course could be way too fast for a course down the road
that has steeper green contours or golfers with different skill levels. There
are simply too many variables involved to make reasonable comparisons.
golfers hear a lot of discussion about courses with fast greens, they don’t
hear as much about all that goes into providing those conditions. Lower mowing
heights, regular topdressing, verti-cutting and hand watering are just some of
the practices involved in maintaining faster greens.
addition, courses that maintain faster greens typically invest heavily in
improving putting green growing environments by removing trees and enhancing
drainage. The investments required on a daily and yearly basis to deliver
faster green speeds are substantial. The truth is they’re beyond the budget of
most golf courses.
of high heat, humidity and other environmental stresses can push putting green
health close to the edge. Trying to maintain a particular green speed during
difficult weather carries a serious risk of causing lasting damage that could
negatively impact smoothness and speed for weeks to come.
protect putting green turf, golf course superintendents may raise mowing
heights or reduce the frequency of mowing and rolling during stressful weather.
These adjustments mean temporarily slower green speeds, but they will help
preserve good playing conditions for the weeks and months ahead.
easy to understand how golfers can place too much emphasis on green speed.
Numbers invite comparisons and faster can easily be mistaken for better.
However, if we can keep the big picture in mind and remember that speed is just
one of the many factors in putting green quality, we’ll save ourselves and
superintendents a lot of headaches.
Waters is the manager of Green Section education for the USGA.