greens approach 13 feet on the
Stimpmeter, which a decade ago would
have put the course second to Augusta
National during the Masters. Now it’s
fairly typical on the PGA Tour, and the
impact on the game’s biggest blight at
the amateur and pro level, pace of play,
is obvious. Saturday’s final threesome
took five hours and 28 minutes to play
on a sunny, almost wind-free day. The
slick speeds result in players marking
putts as short as 18 inches, then lining
them up as if they were 18-footers.
With so much money on the line at
these events, maybe you can’t blame
the players for doing it. Still, as tour
pro Bob Estes noted, the added
marking adds an extra two minutes
per group, per hole. Over 18 holes
that’s at least an extra 30 minutes.
Estes saw just how much slick greens
wreak havoc with the average hacker
at the AT& T Pebble Beach Pro-Am,
where Monterey Peninsula CC’s greens
were noticeably faster than the other
two tournament courses. Not coincidentally, play was significantly slower.
And if you talk to folks at resort courses
monitoring everyday golfers, they are
well aware that play bogs down when greens get slicker.
The impact fast greens have on cost is also obvious. Practices
required to attain faster speeds are more expensive and
expose courses to even costlier fixes if they lead to disease.
“Wear and tear is accentuated because the shorter the grass,
the less leaf blade the grass has and less photosynthesis
occurs, making the superintendent’s job tougher,” Davis says.
Then there is the impact faster greens have on anchoring,
a mostly American phenomenon. “I can’t prove this,” Davis
says, “but I do have this sense that some of [its popularity]
has to do with the faster the greens get—as they tend to be in
the United States compared with the rest of the world. That
has caused people who have the tendency to twitch to have
more issues. A four-footer on slower greens was easier
because they could accelerate more. Now it takes more
touch and caution.”
Which is why the European Tour saw less pushback from
players and the public with supporting the proposed ban.
“It’s not such a big deal, in my opinion, in Europe because of
the course setups,” commissioner George O’Grady said.
With a consensus that golf needs to be more sustainable,
fun and affordable, something’s got to give. So why not start
by slowing down our putting surfaces? N
For years architect Pete Dye howled but no one listened. By now, however, any doctor can identify one of the underlying maladies plaguing golf: ever-faster green speeds. Golfers by nature are addicts, yet no
affliction has so mysteriously brainwashed our senses as the
quest to mirror the effects of rolling a ball on marble.
We all know the issues facing the sport: pace of play, cost
and, most recently, the fascinating political and philosophical
struggle over anchoring putters. Less appreciated is how
they all could be handled—or at least ameliorated—by
slowing down putting surfaces.
“It is an obsession,” acknowledges USGA executive director
Mike Davis. “It seems like greens speeds have become the way
a lot of golfers measure one course against another and for
those with fast, smooth greens, it’s almost a trophy.”
Before you say, hey wait, the USGA is the very entity that
has pushed for faster greens at its tournaments, Davis
admittedly pleads guilty. His defense is that those are national
championships trying to test the game’s best players. That
doesn’t mean everyday courses in America, or even the typical
PGA Tour venue, should pursue similar speeds.
At last month’s Northern Trust Open, winner John
Merrick (above) and the rest of the field saw Riviera CC’s
need for speed
SLOWING DOWN GREENS CAN IMPROVE PACE OF PLAY,
REDUCE COSTS AND ADDRESS OTHER ISSUES IN GOLF