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Wednesday
Nov152017

Initial Findings Confirm Faster Greens Mean Slower Play

While this is a shock to almost no one, we've never had solid statistical evidence that the chase for faster greens slows down play. Anyone who has some of the best putters on the planet mark 18 inch putts when greens are pushing 14 realizes speed forces caution for even the very best.

The USGA and University of Minnesota have teamed up for some very intriguing Science of the Green studies, and while it's early you have to admire their release of findings from a recent green speed/pace study at Poppy Hills. Parker Anderson explains the methodology, the plans for more extensive efforts and it's all worth reading, but of course we'll cut to the chase here:

An increase of one foot in Stimpmeter reading resulted in an increase of 6.39 seconds per green per player.  This one foot increase equates to an increase in total round time of a foursome of 7.67 minutes. In some instances, the increase in time spent per player per green resulted in an increase of as much as 30 minutes per round for a one foot increase in green speed (25 seconds per player per green). Overall, playing experience ratings decreased as green speeds increased. This decrease, although statistically significant, was small.

In conclusion, we found that faster greens equate to longer round times. The strength of this relationship, however, is not as substantial as we had hypothesized.

Perhaps I'm misunderstanding, but I would disagree that the number is insignificant.

On these findings of one foot of speed increase, greens Stimping 9 for a foursome would take 76 seconds less to play a hole than a group dealing with 12 on the Stimpmeter. Over the course of 18 holes that adds up to over 20 minutes. Throw in the added cost, stress and architectural impact, all of which do not improve the game, and the chase for speed continues to make little sense.

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Reader Comments (30)

Strange that nothing is mentioned regarding the relationship of stimp to green contour and pitch. Having to blast an uphill putt or leave everything short on flat putt, can be just as disconcerting as being required to stroke it with the shadow of the putter. To foster a particular number related to time doesn't do justice to the topic without knowing the particulars of the surfaces used in the study. I'd be very careful in assuming slower greens will automatically yield more dollars via satisfaction, especially at courses that charge pricey green fees. Slow greens generally don't invite return customers. There are many reasons for poor pace of play that have nothing to do with a stimp reading. And I'd like to know how many idiots risk losing their surfaces, and revenue along with it, maintaining glass on a regular basis? FWIW, I never found the lower stimp typical in the UK objectionable due to weather conditions and surface contour. Appreciation of architecture and course strategy were more important than what the greens were stimping.
11.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterD. maculata
To the effect of fast greens on golfer enjoyment/impact on the future of the game, add in the frustration, embarrassment, etc. of missing an 18" putt which is nothing like dumping a shot in a water hazard or taking two to get out of a bunker.
11.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterGate74
Setting up courses with greens at 11 plus is very difficult too. Positions that are fine at 9.5 for example can be impossible at double didgit stimp readings. Green speeds have become a status symbol.
11.15.2017 | Unregistered Commenterchico
Recently played a classic course with greens that are very steep and were way too fast. It was no fun and very slow watching 4 decent players take 3or 4 putts on some greens. And that was with good caddies reading the greens for us.

Slow them down!
11.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterIMHO
While this study sheds some light on the subject the variations from one course to another are hard to generalize. Most agree that extra slow or fast greens makes for less enjoyable golf. But hole locations play a big part too. In my muni mens club the first par 3 hole location has the biggest single impact on the pace of play for the day. If it is tucked near and edge you can add 20 minutes to the rest of the day if you are at the back of the pack. Why- because it will be the longest approach iron most guys hit at the start of the round. Everyone will grind over the short sided chips and more on the putts because it is early and they still have hope. Rinse and repeat- then when there is a backup players lose whatever rhythm they had and hit worse shots due to the "gallery" of players waiting to hit. In our club with about 100-120 players per event this results in a backup of 1 to 4 group by the end of the tourney due to one hole location. The problem with courses is no one wants to fix the specific issues at their club. They all use tee times too close together and want to protect par with severe hole locations. Then they complain it takes too long and tell the players "it's not the U.S. Open" as they have a 20 minute delay to tee off by 11 a.m. Theatre of the absurd...
11.15.2017 | Unregistered Commentermunihack
And why are greens faster than ever? Because they are one of the few ways in which courses can be defended against 350 yard, technology and ball-inspired drives.
11.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterGreg
+1 munihack and +1 greg

As munihack and Greg stated, green speeds are only 1 of the numerous factors that can affect pace of play.
I have always been puzzled why guys who can't break 90 will brag about playing greens that are over 11 on a stimp meter. It is almost like they can justify their crappy score because the greens were so fast...

Nothing is more frustrating than greens that are faster than the conditions would dictate. There are a couple of courses close to me that play both ends of this spectrum...one is a seaside course with a world class superintendant who makes sure his greens are fast but fair, and the pins are usually set in appropriate places. The wind can come up at any time, but the ball rarely gets blown around...they are flawless, true, and a joy to putt. He tells me he diligently tries to maintain a constant 9.5 - 10 stimp speed. Contrast with the next course up the road, not on the ocean, but very influenced by it. In trying to keep up, the super that wants his greens to be as fast as the other...but he doesn't have the skill, the design, or the conditions to maintain those speeds. Pins are set in ridiculous places, balls can get blown around, but he can say his greens stimp at 11...guess which course is struggling? There are, of course, other factors, but one course is a destination, the other an afterthought.

As for the pace of play, the second course mentioned takes an eternity to play, while the other has rounds that end way too soon...and it might be the same amount of time.
11.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBDF
Duh!!!!

Amazing revelation.
11.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPete Blaisdell
Slower green speeds are fine, so long as the greens are true. Nothing worse than seeing a well read putt bump offline because the greens are neglected. 8 on the stimp is fast enough for most visitors.
11.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterEasingwold
Another over-statement of the obvious by the "self-appointed governing body" A Homer Simpson moment. Lots of cash to realize what GCS's already know.
11.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPeaceFrog
That study leaves more questions than it answers.

If this is a course that normally has greens that stimp at 9, what's to say the increase in time wasn't from all the regulars going out and then being shocked at how the course was set up on the faster days? If you blow your first few putts well past the hole because for 10 years the course has played at a 9, I can imagine slowing down a bit the rest of the way around, and never really having a good feel for the speed that day.
11.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski
Jesus, USGA is certainly taking its seeet time solving the slow play issue. Guess I shouldn’t be surprised, since the Rules they make and lightning fast greens contribute to the problem. Stop studying the issue and deploy solutions already!!!!
11.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterFarHillsFolly
Again, more solutions.

Build a course, maintain the greens slower. Tell everyone to use old balata balls and persimmon woods



Make sure you have lots of "CLOSING SALE" signs in the back when you need them!

In reality, build your course with the "proper greens speeds" maintain pace of play guidelines and a reasonable price, and you may end up with Goose Creek. A simple, fun course in Mira Loma, CA that makes money every year offering a good product at a good price. Shockingly effective!

Those bitching can put their money where their mouths are and prove their brilliance. Even Rustic Canyon gets it right most times, though with the wind and slopes, they get the greens a little too fast on occasion
11.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterP Thomas
Nice to have real studies done on this stuff.
11.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDon
+1 Don. Everyone is venting about the study, when the study is just a useful data point. How it should be implemented on a particular course is a different question.
11.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterThe O
If you ask a typical golfer age 50-80 (the guys on the board of directors at most private clubs), they'll tell you:
1) The best hole on their home course is the #1 handicap hole.
2) Fast greens = good greens. Good greens are measured by speed. Because Augusta! Slow greens = bad greens - "couldn't get the ball to the hole all day..."
3) The harder the course, the better the course. Because Pine Valley!
4) Fairways should be narrow and tree lined, otherwise the young guys will just bomb drivers and make the course play too easy.
5) Rough should be deep to penalize the young bombers. Just like the US Open!
6) Greens should be receptive, not too firm. If a ball lands on the green, it should make a nice pretty divot and hold the green. Making a ball spin backwards is the ultimate golf shot.
7) Bunkers should be consistent, not wet, with plenty of sand under the ball. But never plugged lies. Somehow.
8) "The course is in good shape" = no brown spots. Lush and green is good. Because Augusta again! Mow patterns in the fairway are cool.
9) A good course should have at least four shots over water, preferably par 3's. Because Augusta National!
10) The US Open should be set up as difficult as possible so the pro's can struggle like ordinary amateurs.
11) Cart paths should come right up to tees and greens to minimize walks, but should also be totally out of play. Somehow.
12) Walkers slow down play.
13) Spyglass is a better test of golf than Pebble, which is overrated because of the ocean views.
14) Push carts are tacky.
15) An easy par 5 is a weak hole, but it would make a good par 4 by changing nothing but the number on the card.
16) A twosome on a course has no "standing" to play through a properly assembled foursome.

Changing these preconceptions is a long process. Someone should write a book on the future of golf. ;)
11.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJW
A very creditable study by Buddy Johnson, the rep for Natl Golf Fdn and owner of Las Sendas GC, Mesa, told the world that faster greens dramatically slowed play. That was 20 yrs ago. Am pleased Far Hills is now listening. By the way, here's another news flash, walk backs to tees that are 800 yards farther back also slow play.
11.15.2017 | Unregistered Commenterron
Now that's funny, ron. Every time we played Las Sendas, the greens were slicker than a soap maker's behind. I'd say it's ingrained more than you believe.
11.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterD. maculata
Very misleading study and article. I will guarantee you at our home club which is private, the faster the greens on a regular basis the faster the play. If this article is referring to courses that are public which lends themselves to lots of visitor play then maybe they have a point, but on a course that people get used to playing and used to the faster greens play will not be slower as greens speed increase. What slows down play is looking for golf balls, hitting provisional balls and the incessant need to know the exact yardage. The average disparity of an average players 6 iron is probably 10% based on the strike, wind, elevation and firmness of the turf. There isn't ANY player at ANY club with a handicap of more than zero that has the talent or accuracy to need exact yardage. Get an estimate to the middle of the green and hit the ball. And move your A**. You're not that good.
11.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMikey
@Mikey
One of my friends played Phoenix CC after it opened from overseed but before the Champions Tour event. He has been a member there forever. He said the greens were so fast he had 24 putts on the front 9. People who claim faster greens speed up play don't putt everything out...
11.15.2017 | Unregistered Commentermunihack
You can’t just simply multiply 3x, using your example of going from a 9 to a 12. It doesn’t work like that. It is very likely that the difference between the 9 to a 10 and a 9 to a 12 would be neglible.
11.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterButters
@munihack You are helping to make my point. Going from 8 to 12 on the stimp without any practice or warning will yield brutal results. But again I guarantee that if a person played regularly on greens at 11 or 12 they will learn to adjust, leave the ball below the hole and have a much shorter and accurate stroke. Your point about putting everything out is bang on and also a major factor in time spent on the greens.
11.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMikey
The single best way to improve pace of play is stop letting fat people out on the course. On the weekend we were a walking foursome of 90+ shooters behind a group of 300 pounders riding in carts and we were constantly playing up on them. They were all decent players, just did everything slow (getting in and out of their carts, selecting their clubs, walking to their putts, etc). There is nothing that could have made them faster players aside from drastic weightloss - if every speed improving tweak to the game and course was made, we would have still played faster than them and still would have been complaining about how slow they were.
11.15.2017 | Unregistered Commenterders
What do you think drew, throw a scale in the shop and draw a red line on the weight limit?
11.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJS
This is the part so many people seem to miss in the "golfs too slow" debate. People think it starts at the pro level and trickles down from there via "emulation". Maybe it does, but there's a reason Tour players play slow (in addition to conditioning themselves to play the pace of 156 players in threesomes in waves off of split tees)

Doesn't matter how you add the difficulty to a golf course (undulating glass top greens, deep rough, hazards, hazards everywhere), the difficulty slows things down.

Most people have never had the opportunity to play a Tour course in full tournament set up. But if they did, they'd understand the time it takes negotiating all those barriers to low scoring... Take all that away and accept the pros are gonna shoot 30-under or sumpin every week.. and you'd be shocked how much faster they'd play...

Oh, but we don't want scoring that low? Too bad. It's one or the other, pick your poison.
11.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterRobopz
Anybody who thinks they can fix slow play with changes to the course or rules is wrong. People only complain about pace of play when they are waiting for a slow group but we are all playing the same course and for whatever reason, some people are slower than others. If they fix everything that could possibly slow the pace of play, faster players will still have to wait for slower players and will still complain about pace of play.
11.15.2017 | Unregistered Commenterders
Duh! but I love 'em fast!
11.15.2017 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
People attack the study but love the "at my club, pace is fine and we have FAST GREENS, so it must be okay" cherrypicked data.

Do all clubs need to be slowed, no.
Can they have high speeds for touring pros, okay.
Could a great deal of courses benefit from slowing greens from a mainteance, cost and pace perspective, sure.

Not everything is binary.
11.16.2017 | Unregistered CommenterStreaky Putter
I agree with Mikey for the most part. The basis for this study seems to ignore the relative expertise of the golfers playing. I'm a former single-digit handicapper, now older and with some orthopedic issues. I play now to a double-digit handicap, but on and around the greens, I'd say I probably still play to a single-digit handicap capability. I love fast greens and putt better on them, generally speaking. Meanwhile, at first-time or relatively unknown courses that have slightly slower greens, the pace-of-play while on the greens becomes actually slower for anyone unfamiliar with them, or playing for the first time. I'd say pace-of-play is much more impacted by style of play. If you don't know what I mean, play in a group right behind a foursome that insists on marking their balls, then putting...and then remarking each ball after every subsequent putt, even marking balls that are 2 feet away from the cup while allowing the further player from the cup to putt first. The time on every green becomes ridiculous, upwards of 10-15 minutes. You can claim this practice is because of green speed, but it's not a given and it's not a constant.
11.16.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTourgrinder

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