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Fast Greens

Fast greens are not what every golfer needs

(or should ask for) in order to putt better. 


Fast Greens are not the answer to better putting. In fact, the faster the green speed, the more difficult it becomes for the average golfer to putt well.

Sensible Speed

In fact, the exact opposite is the case as they soon lead to fearful putting. A sensible speed for a green is one that is challenging, not treacherous.

There is a notion that only greens that are quick are good, and therefore, by definition, all slower greens are bad. However, only an uninformed person would use green speed as the sole criterion to judge putting quality.

Ideal greens to putt on are those that are smooth and roll consistently, irrespective of their speed.

How Fast?

The question is how fast is fast enough? There are two conflicting issues when it comes to answering this question.

  • Golfers want bragging rights in a war of speed with other golf courses.
  • Green staff want slower speeds that reflect more accurately the biological limits of the turf.

Green speed as a measurement on the Stimpmeter is linked to factors such as design contours, turfgrass variety, volume of play, maintenance budget, environmental conditions, sustainable mowing heights and so on. Green speed as a measurement of enjoyment of the game is linked to the expertise of the golfers playing the course.

Maintenance and Hole Locations

Greens are the most costly component in maintenance on a cost per square foot basis. If they are over-stressed by removing too much leaf they become prone to disease unless they are intensely maintained.

Many greens are built with undulations to make them more interesting. Faster speeds make it impossible to use some hole locations and therefore less interesting to play.

Against Fast Greens

Now for the Main Argument why you should argue against speeding up the greens in excess of nine and a half on the Stimpmeter. Unless you have a single digit handicap and play more than once a week, a super-fast surface will crucify your game.

According to Johnny Miller the biggest challenge of playing firm, super-fast greens isn't just putting, but chipping and pitching to them. The ability to control speed, trajectory and spin from different lies has never been more difficult. With each increment of green speed the level of difficulty grows in a geometrical progression until any success is impossible.

More 3-Putts

It is a known fact that the faster the greens, the more the average golfer struggles to manage both direction and distance. Three and even four putting becomes a reality.

Over nine and a half on the Stimpmeter each putt becomes a harrowing experience as the ball continues to slip by, leaving another tricky come-back putt. And surprise, surprise with more putts per golfer the round takes longer to complete.

Golfers are lured to the idea of quick greens by the fact that, as the speed of the green increases, the roll of the golf ball across the putting surface is truer.

However, on the other side of the coin is the fact that each increase in speed adds to the difficulty of getting the ball close to the hole and holing the putt.

Fast greens suit a minority of top level golfers who have the skill to leave their ball under the hole. To the majority of week-end golfers they are more of a kill joy and source of frustration.

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1 = Adapted from Drawing by lblair animation

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Ideal greens