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Benjamin Litman

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Green Speeds: Then and Now
« on: March 24, 2015, 11:34:24 AM »
Thanks to a Mike Clayton retweet, I just came across this gem on my Twitter feed. I find fascinating not only the numbers, but the courses--including my dear Yale--chosen as examples.

"One will perform in large part according to the circumstances."
-Director of Recruitment at Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda on why it selects orphaned children without regard to past academic performance. Refreshing situationism in a country where strict dispositionism might be expected.

Peter Pallotta

Re: Green Speeds: Then and Now
« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2015, 11:45:01 AM »
Thanks, Benjamin.

I couldn't help but wonder whether courses that dramatically increased their green speeds (e.g. Yale, Desert Forest, San Fran) are rated/ranked more highly now than in 1977.

Not that I'm suggesting there'd be any direct (and ironic) correlation mind you....

Peter

BCrosby

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Re: Green Speeds: Then and Now
« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2015, 11:52:57 AM »
Nicklaus once commented that he had been shocked by the speed of the greens at Oakmont at the US Open in 1962. Someone then asked him what the green speeds that year would have measured on a modern stimp device.

He said from 6 to 6.5.

Bob 

Benjamin Litman

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Re: Green Speeds: Then and Now
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2015, 12:08:39 PM »
Great anecdote, Bob. Thanks.

Peter: My guess is that ALL courses have dramatically increased their green speeds in that timeframe, and that any changes in rankings have therefore been due to other factors/ranking criteria. But because you asked (and because GolfDigest has this trusty historical listing of the rankings (http://www.golfdigest.com/golf-courses/golf-courses/2007-12/100greatestcourses_roster), I shall answer:

              1977-78 GD Ranking              2008-09 GD Rank
Butler                5th 10                           3rd 10 (No. 21)
Desert Forest      2nd 50                          N/A (dropped from rankings in 2005; was in 8th 10 (No. 80) in 2003-04)
Hazeltine            2nd 50                          9th 10 (No. 89)
Olympic              1st 10                           3rd 10 (No. 23)
SFGC                  2nd 50                          4th 10 (No. 31)
Yale                   N/A (dropped from rankings in 1977; was in 2nd 50 in 1975-76)

« Last Edit: March 24, 2015, 12:11:10 PM by Benjamin Litman »
"One will perform in large part according to the circumstances."
-Director of Recruitment at Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda on why it selects orphaned children without regard to past academic performance. Refreshing situationism in a country where strict dispositionism might be expected.

jeffwarne

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Re: Green Speeds: Then and Now
« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2015, 12:31:46 PM »
Nicklaus once commented that he had been shocked by the speed of the greens at Oakmont at the US Open in 1962. Someone then asked him what the green speeds that year would have measured on a modern stimp device.

He said from 6 to 6.5.

Bob  

However, when one looks at the old tapes of a ball rolling DOWNHILL, the ball is barely creeping down the hill due to slope AND grain running the same direction.
They would seem particularly fast downhill when contrasted with uphill putts with the opposite effect , ESPECIALLY when the effect of using a pin cut into a slope which are now completely avoided out of necessity with modern green speeds.

I know which type of green stimp speed requires more skill/imagination and it's not the high one.
Amazing to me we've done so much to "protect par" by growing native, narrowing fairways, lengthening, and the thing that helps scoring most is having the greens roll virtually the same speed both uphill and downhill-to say nothing of the most difficult pins slopewise being eliminated.
Observe how many putts were left short at Bay Hill due to slower than normal greens for the Tour.

Also, while those might be everyday green speeds from the 1970's, they could be amped for events.
Now members expect the same high speed all the time.
God forbid a course play different day to day-even a gem such as Crystal Downs is trying to achieve a "consistent" speed based on a poll, which  eliminates one of the joys of an outdoor game.
« Last Edit: March 24, 2015, 12:46:20 PM by jeffwarne »
"Let's slow the damned greens down a bit, not take the character out of them." Tom Doak
"Take their focus off the grass and put it squarely on interesting golf." Don Mahaffey

Mark_Rowlinson

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Re: Green Speeds: Then and Now
« Reply #5 on: March 27, 2015, 03:26:19 PM »
Does anyone still use a blade putter? I used to, 30 or 40 years ago. I loved it and was quite good with it. But my sons now encourage me to use some great heavy thing - I can barely putt to the centre of the green. Have our greens slowed down? I doubt it.

Jon Wiggett

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Re: Green Speeds: Then and Now
« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2015, 03:47:52 PM »
Does anyone still use a blade putter? I used to, 30 or 40 years ago. I loved it and was quite good with it. But my sons now encourage me to use some great heavy thing - I can barely putt to the centre of the green. Have our greens slowed down? I doubt it.

Mark,

you certainly do not see as many these days which is a shame as I always had a soft spot for the Titleist Bullseye or a John Letter Golden Goose. I suspect it has more to do with fashion than green speeds.

Jon

Tom_Doak

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Re: Green Speeds: Then and Now
« Reply #7 on: March 27, 2015, 05:36:11 PM »
Does anyone still use a blade putter? I used to, 30 or 40 years ago. I loved it and was quite good with it. But my sons now encourage me to use some great heavy thing - I can barely putt to the centre of the green. Have our greens slowed down? I doubt it.

Mark:

I still use mine!  And reasonably well, most of the time.

Jim_Coleman

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Re: Green Speeds: Then and Now
« Reply #8 on: March 27, 2015, 07:19:49 PM »
    I realize that memory is very unreliable.  Nonetheless, I am skeptical of these reports of old stimpmeter readings.  My course, Rolling Green, hosted the Women's Open in 1976.  The USGA reports stimp readings then at under 9.  My memory tells me that the poa greens when I joined the club in 1979 were just as fast, or faster, than the bent greens we are playing now.  Downhill five footers were scary and would routinely run 10 feet by a hole.  Today they don't, although we're told the greens are running at 10-11.  And I find it difficult to believe Oakmont's 1962 greens ran at 6 -  a speed probably found on many fairways today.  I can't prove it; this is only a cynical observation.  But, I believe it is now so politically correct to encourage slower greens, that history is being revised to support the politics.  I know, it's tiresome to hear about "the good old days" from an older generation fuddy duddy.   (I'm 66, but don't feel like a fuddy duddy.)  All I can say is, I remember what I remember.

Ken Moum

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Re: Green Speeds: Then and Now
« Reply #9 on: March 28, 2015, 02:47:56 AM »
    I realize that memory is very unreliable.  Nonetheless, I am skeptical of these reports of old stimpmeter readings.  My course, Rolling Green, hosted the Women's Open in 1976.  The USGA reports stimp readings then at under 9.  My memory tells me that the poa greens when I joined the club in 1979 were just as fast, or faster, than the bent greens we are playing now.  Downhill five footers were scary and would routinely run 10 feet by a hole.  Today they don't, although we're told the greens are running at 10-11.  And I find it difficult to believe Oakmont's 1962 greens ran at 6 -  a speed probably found on many fairways today.  I can't prove it; this is only a cynical observation.  But, I believe it is now so politically correct to encourage slower greens, that history is being revised to support the politics.  I know, it's tiresome to hear about "the good old days" from an older generation fuddy duddy.   (I'm 66, but don't feel like a fuddy duddy.)  All I can say is, I remember what I remember.

See Jeff's post #4.

He nails it IMHO.  The greens at the course I learned to play on "played fast" because downhill putts were scary.  But i was back a couple of years ago and they weren't nearly as testing.

I'm convinced that back then the huge difference between uphill and downhill pace was the reason.

Where I mostly play now, the greens barely grow in the winter so they don't get mowed. But we can often play, and by Feb. they're just like the greens I remember from home. Fast as lightning downhill, but slow uphill.
Over time, the guy in the ideal position derives an advantage, and delivering him further  advantage is not worth making the rest of the players suffer at the expense of fun, variety, and ultimately cost -- Jeff Warne, 12-08-2010

Jim_Kennedy

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Re: Green Speeds: Then and Now
« Reply #10 on: March 28, 2015, 12:33:54 PM »
From a 1990 USGA article by David Oatis:

It should be noted that in 1976 and 1977, the years during which the stimpmeter was tested, the average speed across the country was 6' 6". Furthermore, anything over 7' 6" was considered excitingly fast by the Green Section agronomists doing the testing.

...and here are the readings at the 1978 US Open at Cherry Hills:

http://gsr.lib.msu.edu/1970s/1978/781107.pdf


...and one on the difference in uphill/downhill putts using 1/4" and 3/16" settings:

http://gsr.lib.msu.edu/1980s/1980/800107.pdf
"I never beat a well man in my life" - Harry Vardon

James Bennett

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Re: Green Speeds: Then and Now
« Reply #11 on: March 28, 2015, 05:15:35 PM »
Good articles Jim, and some classic cars in the car park, mid 1970's.  Thanks.
Bob; its impossible to explain some of the clutter that gets recalled from the attic between my ears. .  (SL Solow)

Jim Nugent

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Re: Green Speeds: Then and Now
« Reply #12 on: March 28, 2015, 05:36:12 PM »
Is it certain that the stimpmeter accurately measures green speeds (if nothing else, in a comparative sense)?  One thing that occurs to me is that the stimpmeter does not replicate putting conditions.  When you putt, you hit the ball with your putter: you apply a force to a stationary object, to set it in motion.  The stimpmeter, as I understand it, rolls a ball down a slope: when it first touches the green it's already moving.  I know little about physics, but am wondering if that changes the equation. 

Also, can we compare stimpmeter readings from 35 years ago with those of today?  i.e. are the stimpmeters and balls the same, or enough alike, that a reading of 7' now is the same as 7' in 1978? 

MClutterbuck

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Re: Green Speeds: Then and Now
« Reply #13 on: March 28, 2015, 06:04:57 PM »
The Stimpmeter should be the same, as it is well defined. But your other point is good, the ball might go further.

Jon Wiggett

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Re: Green Speeds: Then and Now
« Reply #14 on: March 28, 2015, 06:17:17 PM »
Also, the stimp reading is not really a measure of speed but rather a measure of distance of roll. The ball is not rolling faster but rather rolling further if hit at the same speed. If anything to hit the ball the same distance you now need to hit the ball slower.

Jon

Padraig Dooley

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Re: Green Speeds: Then and Now
« Reply #15 on: March 28, 2015, 07:08:35 PM »
Going back to when I started playing in the early 90s green speeds don't seem any quicker now then there were then. Does this seem the way to others? Was there that much of a jump from the mid 70s to the 90s?

Anecdotally, members talk about the speed of the greens in Cork GC before automated irrigation and say how fast they would become, imperative to stay below the hole on a few greens or else the next shot could be a chip, you would have to think green speeds were pretty high for this to happen.

There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun.
  - Pablo Picasso

Brent Hutto

Re: Green Speeds: Then and Now
« Reply #16 on: March 28, 2015, 08:22:09 PM »
Also, the stimp reading is not really a measure of speed but rather a measure of distance of roll. The ball is not rolling faster but rather rolling further if hit at the same speed. If anything to hit the ball the same distance you now need to hit the ball slower.

That's an interesting point, Jon. Another of the many paradoxes of playing golf I suppose. The faster the greens, the slower you must roll the ball.

Mike_Young

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Re: Green Speeds: Then and Now
« Reply #17 on: March 28, 2015, 11:51:46 PM »
Stimp readings are higher because we can.  Ask yourself where the industry would be if it had remained the same?  Would Toro have made as much$$$$...would irrigation be as complicated?....would fans be at every course?....would top dressing be as expensive?....would grain still be part of the game?...would new grasses have been needed?....would the softspike have been needed?   .We are SOLD greenspeed...the business controls the game....
"just standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona"

Jon Wiggett

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Re: Green Speeds: Then and Now
« Reply #18 on: March 29, 2015, 03:00:21 AM »
Stimp readings are higher because we can.  Ask yourself where the industry would be if it had remained the same?  Would Toro have made as much$$$$...would irrigation be as complicated?....would fans be at every course?....would top dressing be as expensive?....would grain still be part of the game?...would new grasses have been needed?....would the softspike have been needed?   .We are SOLD greenspeed...the business controls the game....

BINGO :-[

Steve Okula

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Re: Green Speeds: Then and Now
« Reply #19 on: March 29, 2015, 10:48:09 AM »
Stimp readings are higher because we can.  Ask yourself where the industry would be if it had remained the same?  Would Toro have made as much$$$$...would irrigation be as complicated?....would fans be at every course?....would top dressing be as expensive?....would grain still be part of the game?...would new grasses have been needed?....would the softspike have been needed?   .We are SOLD greenspeed...the business controls the game....

I disagree. Faster greens are a response to customer demand, otherwise golfers would be flocking to the courses with the slower greens.

I was playing golf in the '60's, before the introduction of the stimpmeter, and though there was no objective measurement certain courses had a local reputation for faster greens, which were more widely admired and therefore more in demand than  their slower neighbors. The stimp may have accelerated the process of the acquisition of speed, but the golfers' desire was there before the instrument.

As a GCS, I would be perfectly happy to maintain my greens at 8-9 ft. but I wouldn't last long with those measurements, and not because any manufacturers or suppliers are pushing speed on me, but my members certainly are.

By the way, there are not, "fans at every course", an absurd exagerration, and a lot of us are still buying a masonry grade topdressing sand just like fifty years ago. New grasses have been developed and released continuously for the past seventy years or more for improvements like disease resistance, and drought and temperature tolerances as much as green speeds or mowing heights. Greens irrigation is a fraction of the overall watering system, and would be in place anyway, regardless of speeds. Nobody like grain in the '60's and it would have disappeared with new technology even if speeds were still at 7'. An finally, as far as I can see, the soft spike hasn't done anything to improve putting quality and I suspect the whole thing is a plot by clubhouse managers to protect their interior surfaces.
The small wheel turns by the fire and rod,
the big wheel turns by the grace of God.

Mike_Young

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Re: Green Speeds: Then and Now
« Reply #20 on: March 29, 2015, 03:04:36 PM »
Steve,
Yep I exaggerated about the fans on "every" but there would probably be no fans if height had not lowered. 

You are right about the industry succumbing to customer demand.  I am sure that even today the customer demands a longer driver and a faster green but those items are as much a part of the game as the width of a soccer field or the height of a basketball goal or the length of a baseball bat..   The NFL even requires a certain psi of air in their footballs. 
Yes, there would still be irrigation at greens etc but there would not be the need for the sophistication often seen.   And maybe the industry would have eliminated grain but for so many years it was a critical element of the game and required a talent. 

Maybe you are right and  a better explanation is customer demand but it is  allowed and if we continue to allow such the game will continue to have issues.  I think we can agree that slower speed will cost less to maintain.   
"just standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona"

Joe Hancock

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Re: Green Speeds: Then and Now
« Reply #21 on: March 29, 2015, 03:18:15 PM »
Did the customer truly "demand" faster greens, or did they only ask for them once supers proved they could make greens faster with enough money behind their conquest? It's a competitive world out there...

Joe
" What the hell is the point of architecture and excellence in design if a "clever" set up trumps it all?" Peter Pallotta, June 21, 2016

"People aren't picking a side of the fairway off a tee because of a randomly internally contoured green ."  jeffwarne, February 24, 2017

Jon Wiggett

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Re: Green Speeds: Then and Now
« Reply #22 on: March 29, 2015, 03:31:44 PM »
No Mike,

you got it right first time in my book. It was industry driving the speed of greens as it is a way to create more turnover. Anybody who knows anything about advertising knows it is advertising that drives customer demand.

Jon

Peter Pallotta

Re: Green Speeds: Then and Now
« Reply #23 on: March 29, 2015, 04:05:57 PM »
I use an old Titlelist Bullseye. Light and responsive to the touch, it should be very good on today's smooth, fast, true running and well-manicured greens. I hope to one day actually play such a set of greens, and see if I'm right.
Peter

Mike_Young

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Re: Green Speeds: Then and Now
« Reply #24 on: March 29, 2015, 04:21:42 PM »
Peter,
I too hope that one day soon you may have the chance to play a real golf course. :)
"just standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona"

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