1 What Speeds are your Greens?

What Speeds are your Greens?

by Laurence Gale


At this time of the year, many golf courses are holding competitions, with members comparing the speed of greens from one course to another. Televised tournaments make a point of referring to the greens speed which, in turn, often results in club members putting pressure on their greenkeeper to increase the speed on their own greens.

Well, what is green speed? It is the measurement of how far a golf ball travels along the putting surface when released from a device called a Stimpmeter. The original purpose of the Stimpmeter was to provide a measurement of greens speed, to help evaluate the consistency of the greens and to ensure that all the greens were performing within certain parameters. The device is also intended to be used to establish and aid with the position of pin placements for competitions, ensuring that the speed around the pin position is constant from all directions.

The Stimpmeter is a simple device consisting of a channelled piece of wood/metal that a golf ball is rolled down. Essentially, it's a chute with a precise dimple near the top in which a golf ball rests. One end of the Stimpmeter is placed on the putting surface and, when raised to an angle of 20 degrees, the dimple releases the ball. The average distance the ball travels along the green is the accepted measure of the green's speed. The distance is measured in feet and inches.

Most golf clubs will be looking to obtain Stimpmeter readings averaging between 4 feet and 9 feet for regular membership play, and between 6 feet and 11 feet for tournament play.

However, there is generally a cost. Trying to maintain fast greens for long periods of time will eventually result in long term damage to the sward. Most greenkeepers will only produce fast greens for major competitions, reverting back to the normal maintenance regimes once the competitions have finished, allowing the turf grass time to recover. The table below shows green speeds rankings.

Standard of Play

Green speed in feet and inches


Medium slow


Medium fast


Regular membership green speeds






Tournament green speeds






Stimpmeter are influenced by the following factors:

  • Maintenance regimes employed
  • Percentage of grass cover
  • Soil type
  • Grass species (leaf blade size)
  • Types of machinery used
  • Rolling programmes
  • Mowing heights
  • Top dressings
  • Green construction (USGA/soil greens)
  • Fertiliser dressings
  • Water content
  • Surface levels
  • Firmness
  • Pest and diseases
  • Weeds
  • Shade
  • Weather

In order to obtain faster green speeds the greenkeeper will have to introduce a number of regimes. This will primarily involve reducing mowing heights and double cutting, reducing nutrient input particularly nitrogen, allowing the greens to dry out and a programme of rolling to firm up the surfaces. All of these activities are detrimental to turf grass growth. If these conditions are maintained for long periods the reaction of the turf grass plant will be to shut down it's metabolism processes, thus becoming weaker and more susceptible to pests and diseases. In some cases the plant will not be able to recover, thus leaving uneven and bare surfaces.

It is imperative that members and players have a better understanding of what green speed is, and how it affects the maintenance and management of their golfing facilities. Do they really want to jeopardise the long term quality of the greens for the sake of speed? Normally, nine times out of ten the green speed is more than adequate for the standard of play for most course members.

Do you fell pressurised into producing faster green speeds? What problems do you encounter when trying to maintain faster greens? Do you inform your members of your green speeds? I am sure green speeds are a constant talking point between members and staff at most golfing facilities, what are your views?

Let us know, put your comments below the article. Your experiences may help one of your fellow greenkeepers.

For further information on the use of a Stimpmeter, and some views on fast greens, click on the following links:




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