Stimping the Greens
For many players, the condition and speed of the greens is a significant benchmark on rating a golf course. At KGCC, we pride ourselves on having great greens.
A tool used to measure green speed is called a stimp meter. On a flat area of the green, it applies a known force to a golf ball and then measures the distance travelled. At KGCC we usually run about 9.5 to 10.5 on the stimp meter on an average day. Usually for Mens’ Night or tournaments we can get them up to about 11.5 with a cut and roll.
To put this in perspective, the average public golf course is between 8.5-10.5, a PGA Tour event averages around 11 and a Major Championship averages 11.5-13.
In the last 2 years we have been rolling the greens without cutting far more often, usually about 3 times a week. We have found this reduces the amount of mechanical stress on the grass plant as the leaf tips are not cut by the mower each day. This helps the plant stay healthy and strong, reducing disease and drought stress. With more frequent rolling we can also achieve a very smooth and uniform putting surface, something the golfers seem to love! We have also noticed that when we roll the greens for a few consecutive days, the green speed will continue to get faster on the stimp meter each day.
Irrigation also plays an important “roll” in maintaining green speed. Our philosophy for our bentgrass greens is a deep and infrequent irrigation, meaning we don’t water the greens for 2-4 days (or however long we feel comfortable pushing them… 6…. 7 days? We’ve done that!) and when we do water them, we water heavy to fill the soil profile with water again. This, in theory, promotes deep rooting of the plants; the soil dries out from top to bottom and the roots go down further, in search of water. This irrigation practice makes for fast and firm greens. If green speeds become too fast (yes it happens!) we can irrigate more heavily in the evening and slow things down for the next day.
Ultimately a stimp meter is a useful tool for quantifying green speed and helping to have consistent speeds throughout the golf course. As many golfers know, faster is not always better! We strive for healthy greens that roll well rather than just lightning speed.