Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Change is not Improvement

"...The Stimpmeter was invented by Edward Stimpson in the 1930s as a device for measuring green speeds, but it was not adopted by the USGA until 1977, whereupon the USGA field staff was commissioned to measure 581 courses nationwide to benchmark the speed of American greens. Here is a sampling of what was found:

  • Cypress Point: 7 feet, 8 inches
  • Pebble Beach: 7-2

  • San Francisco Golf Club: 6-5

  • Augusta National: 7-11

  • Medinah: 7-8

  • Congressional: 6-4
  • Oakland Hills: 8-5
  • Pinehurst No. 2: 6-10

  • Pine Valley: 7-4

  • Winged Foot: 7-5
  • Shinnecock Hills: 7-2

  • Merion: 6-4

  • Harbour Town: 5-1

  • Oakmont: 9-8
 - GolfDigest Oct 2013

     The one "condition" the stimpmeter can't quantify is smoothness itself....which contributes it's own quality to the overall reading. the greens at our local course are mown to "modern" tolerances...even though they were and contoured in the 70's for a slower roll.

Our local course was designed for slower grass and the old Balata wound-ball. Most of the greens are barely 23-25yds deep, and one increasing problem is that the modern ball will not stop on the green after a 50-70 yd. approach-shot with the shorter mowing-heights. If you play the "low game", they just roll off the back even when the ball lands on the apron. The other problem is maintenance-related since the shorter grass can't be rolled smooth and survive as a low-mainentance course like ours. The greens are so lumpy that any putt over 12-ft is pure-luck since the ball's rolling so-slowly on the too-short grass that it woobles irratically.
Combine 23-yd greens with the 70's steeper countours and overall lumpiness and potential one-putts turns into lag-putts or up-n-ins. I've always pointed-out how fast the ball stalls near the hole when you see old reruns of Opens from the 70s', or of the Shell World of Golf series. Greens that used to be mown at 3/8ths of an inch or even 1/4-inch are now being mown at 0.010-thousandths...or even 0.008-thousanths. And the 1-inch fairways are now 1/2-inch to 1/4-inch....then they wonder why they need so much maintenance. The irony is that since our local course gets little maintenance ordinalrily and isn't mown too-short or too-often, our grass is still in good condition after a Summer of rain and heat were many much-more-expensive courses have turned to mud and bare earth. Some high-end courses have no fairways left and dead greens...and lost of complaints. There's much to be said for the old Scottish links tradition of benignb neglect and letting nature drive the course conditions.