Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Green speeds

Happy Holidays to everyone that follows our blog, I hope you enjoy time with loved ones during the weeks ahead and an opportunity to step back from the busyness of the season to reflect on what's important. 

Thank you to all the members for a great year, we appreciate all the feedback we received this year.  We're making plans to have another successful year in 2015, building upon what we've been able to accomplish in the recent years.

Last week I spent a few days at a regional conference administered by the Ohio Turfgrass Foundation.  I was able to attend over 10 seminars with topics ranging from Perennial Flowers to Equipment Maintenance.  The seminar I enjoyed the most was the topic of green speed.  With our greens currently rolling at a whopping 5' when they're not froze, and it now being the time of year that no one cares about the speed of the greens, I thought I would throw this at you for a good read:

We all hear those comments every once in while, they have been surfacing for the last 10 years or so:  "I remember when our greens were so fast, the greens now aren't as fast as what I remember way back when"  I always chuckle a little when I hear this, because we know the history of green speeds, sometimes an individual's memories are what they want them to be, perception isn't always reality. 

I have no doubts that speeds were fast back in the 70's or 80's, in fact you may have had the fastest greens around at the Club you called home.  But what was fast?  Can we compare green speeds from back then to today's green speeds?  Is the perception sometimes that greens were faster back then?

Here are the facts:
  • In today's world, 11 on the stimpmeter is considered fast and greens are cut lower then ever, sometimes at .110" or even lower.
  • In 2000, 10 on the stimp was considered fast and greens were most commonly cut at .120"
  • In 1990, 9 on the stimp was considered fast and greens were most commonly cut at .150"
  • In 1980, 8 on the stimp was considered fast and greens were commonly cut at .170"
  • And in 1970, 7 on the stimpmeter was considered fast and greens were most commonly cut around .200"
  • In 1976 - 1977 the average green speed was 6.5' and over 7.5' was considered "excitingly fast" by the USGA
  • Green speeds from the 1920's through the 1970's didn't change much.
  • In 1978 the US Open green speed was 9'
  • In 2014 the US Open green speed was around 13' all four days
So, if green speeds were relatively the same from the 20's to the 70's, what changed?  A couple things: First, the USGA produced the first aluminum stimpmeter and started using it as a tool to measure greens speeds.  Second, an article was released by the USGA in 1977 titled "How Fast are your Greens"  this kind of got the ball rolling, pun intended!  As the demand for increased speed gained traction, technology followed.  We now have mowers that can mow grass at crazy low heights, improved grass varieties for those growing bentgrass, improved turf health technology and bettter watering practices.

Naturally, things will improve, but green speeds have really jumped in the last 4 decades.  The point to ponder is when do we say that's it, no more speed, let's play this game as it sits.  We all know that we can't keep improving on this measure, we can never attain speeds of 16' for example without having to re-sod all the greens the following year.  So I see the urge for faster greens slowing way down during the next 10 years and settling into maintaining what is found to be the best speed for those greens that we maintain.

While speed is an important part of the game and how the greens are played, emphasis should transition over to other factors as the speed of the greens can no longer improve. We should use terms such as: firm, true, consistent, enjoyable, uniform, dense and receptive.  I think our current Grounds Committee has really done a great job of seeing this and setting a rational and practical goal for our greens.  Our current Standard Operating Procedure for greens states:  Objective – Greens are to be maintained healthy, smooth and firm with greens speeds between 10.0’ - 10.5’ as measured by a stimpmeter from May 15th through September 15th with a high importance put on consistency. 

The next time you hear a golfer enlighten you on how fast the greens were back in the days, just remind them that they my be correct, the 8' they were rolling would have been the fastest greens around, but they are nothing compared to what we can make these greens do now!

Happy Holidays!