Superintendents all around the world strive to maintain the course to their ideal conditions. They focus on the perfect watering techniques, emphasize the importance of using seed in divots, and keeping the greens as true as possible. In addition to having the greens roll true, they work each day to meet their desired green speed, whether they are looking for lightning fast or slower and softer.
So how exactly do they change green speeds? Besides mother nature’s contribution of the elements, the agronomy staff roll the greens with a machine that looks much like a lawn mower. This presses the ground to make it harder until they reach the perfect speed. Many courses also partake in a pratice called “top-dressing” in which the staff spreads sand across the greens. Obviously, they even out the sand to maintain rolling conditions to the best of their ability. Other factors include the height of the grass, fertilizers used, and the direction of the grain.
The superintendent then uses a stimpmeter to determine the exact speed of the greens. At many courses you will hear customers ask if they are running 11’s or 12’s, etc. These numbers are based off of the measurement determined by the stimpmeter.
The stimpmeter is an aluminum, v-shaped bar that is designed to roll a golf ball at a consistent, 20 degree height. By marking the starting point with a tee, the stimpmeter will show the consistency in multiple balls rolled. Ideally, the number of balls rolled should be within an eight inch distance. At the average rolling distance, another tee is placed to determine the first series. From the tee at the distance point, three more balls are rollled to another target point. The person then measures both lengths and takes the average of the two. This is then used as the green speed.
Some courses will, when asked, freely give the measurement to the customer. However, I know at some courses, the superintendent is reluctant to say. At Troon Golf facilities, they are not allowed to give the exact measurement. The confidentiality of the stimpmeter reading leaves the customer and employees guessing how fast the greens are rolling.
So next time someone is talking about the greens rolling certain numbers, you will be more informed and can agree or disagree!