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How Innovation Impacts Your Game March 10, 2019 | Liberty Corner, N.J. By George Waters, USGA

Turfgrass researchers and plant breeders have played a significant role in creating better playing conditions. (USGA Green Section)

Course conditions today are very different than what golfers experienced 50-100 years ago. Much of this progress is the result of research and innovation that occurs behind the scenes with very little fanfare. Scientific research is a painstaking process that often requires years of work before any impact can be observed.

Most research never produces a major innovation, but the lessons learned go on to benefit future work. Research may not be a glamorous process, but it has transformed golf for the better. Here are three things every golfer should know about how innovation impacts our game.

New Grasses Create Better Playing Conditions

Turf conditions have advanced tremendously since golf’s earliest days. Turfgrass researchers and plant breeders have played a significant role in this progress, but they don’t often get credit. Developing a new grass takes years of research and investment, and the improvements are not always easy to spot. The impact, however, is very real. Today, there are new grasses that are more resistant to disease, require less water and deliver better playability than their predecessors. This allows us to enjoy better and more consistent playing conditions on the course.

Simple Measurements Have a Major Impact

Playing on firm, smooth and consistent putting greens is something we all enjoy, but achieving these conditions is not easy. In the past, superintendents had to rely heavily on their perceptions as they worked to provide the best possible playing conditions. Unfortunately, looks can be deceiving when it comes to course care, so solid data are valuable commodities. Innovations such as the Stimpmeter and portable moisture meters allow today’s superintendents to make objective measurements that help guide their decisions. This leads to more efficient golf course maintenance and better playability.

How a putting green is constructed plays a major role in its playing characteristics. (USGA Green Section)

All Putting Greens Are Not Created Equal

We may not spend much time wondering what is under the putting surface while we’re lining up a key putt, but how a green is built has a huge impact on how it plays. To help golf courses deliver more consistent putting greens that could handle modern demands, the USGA invested in research to develop the USGA Recommendations for a Method of Putting Green Construction, first published in 1960 and continually updated to this day. Commonly known as the “USGA green,” this construction method has now been used to build thousands of high-quality putting greens around the world.

In 2019, the USGA will invest almost $2 million in turfgrass and environmental research to help continue the tremendous progress that has been made. In addition, on March 12-13, experts from around the golf industry are gathering in Tokyo, Japan, at the 5th Golf Innovation Symposium to discuss topics such as improving golf course management, enhancing the golfer experience and creating opportunities for golf in our increasingly urban world. Whether results from these efforts materialize quickly, or develop over the long term, know that lots of people are working hard on course care innovation so that you can enjoy top-notch playing conditions.

George Waters is the manager of education for the USGA Green Section. Email him at