Holey Wars? They're Not Necessary July 12, 2016

When done carefully, hole changing will provide a smooth surface around a hole that has been located with putting green speed and slope in mind.

One of the most important jobs completed by the maintenance staff on a regular basis is setting hole locations. Where holes are located has a major impact on course difficulty, pace of play and turfgrass wear in certain areas. However, another consequence of changing hole locations that is less factual and more subjective is the perception of controversial hole locations. When golfers perceive a hole location as being “controversial”, less-than-desirable discussions may be had after their round. Fortunately, there are three concepts all golfers should understand that may help avoid “holey wars” with the maintenance staff:

1.    There is a direct correlation between green speed and slope. In the USGA Green Section Record article, Putting Green Speed, Slope and Non-Conforming Hole Locations, the author makes a solid case that green speed is directly tied to the slopes found on putting greens. When green speed becomes faster, slopes must be avoided when establishing hole locations. While it is the responsibility of the person setting the holes to avoid areas with excessive slope, all players need to understand this point. As green speeds increase, previously usable hole locations may become extremely difficult or unsuitable. This issue can lead to disagreement between golfers and maintenance staff, but the conflict is easily avoidable by maintaining green speeds within a range that is appropriate for both putting green architecture and golfer ability.

2.    “Volcanoed” holes usually are not caused by the maintenance staff. Excess organic matter or too much water can cause soft conditions, resulting in an area around the hole that is slightly higher than the surrounding putting surface. This phenomenon often is referred to as a “volcanoed” hole and many times is blamed on the maintenance staff. In reality, volcanoed holes are caused by golfer traffic around the hole as they pull the flagstick out of the hole and replace the flag after putting. This phenomenon and many other aspects of hole changing are described in the USGA Green Section Record article, The Hole Was Located Where?

3.    Often, living on the edge is necessary. During the growing season when green speeds are faster, flat areas must frequently be used for hole locations. However, in many areas where slower green speeds are maintained outside of the primary playing season, edges of greens and other sloped areas should be used to disperse traffic. Since there typically is far less play during the offseason, pace of play generally is not an issue. Placing holes in areas with more slope during the offseason saves flatter areas for hole locations when green speeds increase during the primary playing season.

The next time you play, keep these concepts in mind – they might just avoid a few “holey wars”.