Green Speeds Don’t Travel
One of the most important things to know about green speed measurements is that they should not be used to compare one golf course with another. A green speed that is perfect for one course could be way too fast for a course down the road that has steeper green contours or golfers with different skill levels. There are simply too many variables involved to make reasonable comparisons.
Speed Costs Money
While golfers hear a lot of discussion about courses with fast greens, they don’t hear as much about all that goes into providing those conditions. Lower mowing heights, regular topdressing, verticutting and hand watering are just some of the practices involved in maintaining faster greens. In addition, courses that maintain faster greens typically invest heavily in improving putting green growing environments by removing trees and enhancing drainage. The investments required on a daily and yearly basis to deliver faster green speeds are substantial, and beyond the budget of most golf courses.
Speed Can Kill
Periods of high heat, humidity and other environmental stresses can push putting green health close to the edge. Trying to maintain a particular green speed during difficult weather carries a serious risk of causing lasting damage that could negatively impact smoothness and speed for weeks to come. To protect putting green turf, golf course superintendents may raise mowing heights or reduce the frequency of mowing and rolling during stressful weather. These adjustments mean temporarily slower green speeds, but they will help preserve good playing conditions for the weeks and months ahead.
It’s easy to understand how golfers can place too much emphasis on green speed. Numbers invite comparisons and faster can easily be mistaken for better. However, if we can keep the big picture in mind and remember that speed is just one of the many factors in putting green quality, we’ll save ourselves and superintendents a lot of headaches.
George Waters is the manager of Green Section eductation for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.