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Green Speed Up, Strategy Down.
« on: February 18, 2003, 02:58:15 AM »
Strategy starts at the green and works its way back to the tee.  

Is the demand for faster and faster green speeds preventing architects from creating interesting, strategy inspiring greens with pronounced internal features?

I would assume that there are clubs and courses that have flattened their greens in order to accomodate faster and faster green speeds.  Have any of you noticed that flattening greens leads to fewer and less interesting strategy decisions?  Any examples?  

Are any of you aware of greens where strategy dependent pin placements have been lost due to faster green speeds?  Again, what are some examples?

Assume for a minute that the USGA rolled back the ball to a point that all the old classic courses were again contenders for the USOpen, but that the USGA still insisted on setting up the course with its usual lightning fast greens.  Would any US Open worthy courses be precluded from consideration because of pronounced green contours?  Which courses?
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:02 PM by -1 »

Tom MacWood (Guest)

Re: Green Speed Up, Strategy Down.
« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2003, 04:37:14 AM »
I agree. If watch old Shell's WWof G or these old Sam Sneed celebrity matches, you see a variety of interesting shots around the greens. Super fast greens seem to limit your possiblities.

Too many exciting greens have been flattened because green speeds have made them unplayable. My home course - OSU-Scarlet - had its most severe green the 17th flattened. Severe greens produce huge breaks, and using your imagination on greens like that is great fun.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »


Re: Green Speed Up, Strategy Down.
« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2003, 04:44:59 AM »
This is an interesting subject we've talked about on here a number of times but this thread puts the subject in a slightly different light.

If you ask me, generally speaking a modern day maintenance perscription of over irrigating courses is relatively destructive of overall strategies due to nixing the free wheeling bounce and roll of the ball but generally is a problem that's correctable by instituting a program of less irrigating.

But excessive greenspeeds that exceed the utility and functionality of various green slopes and contours and lead to softening and flattening out green surfaces (in the quest for additional speed) is far more dangerous and destructive to golf courses.

The reason clearly is that once recontoured, softened, flattened etc the club will rarely, if ever, think to get those old features back again and in most cases will have destroyed some of the unique character of their course without future recourse (such as drying out an over irrigated course).

There's no better example I know of than Old Town G.C. Winston Salem NC. If he chooses to Dunlop White should be consulted by any club interested in softening old green contours or interested in preventing the attempt of other clubs to do so.

I certainly don't want to put him on the spot but he says he's been noticing how some of the brilliant old original green surround "tie ins" have been lost with the Old Town green contour softening. Of course Old Town is an interesting case because obviously the original Perry Maxwell green contours were pretty dramatic by today's standards.

Nevertheless, any golf club (including my own) that's lucky enough to possess Maxwell greens generally should start to get ready to treat them as art. All in all there may have been no better green creator than Perry Maxwell. The flow of his greens in every way is generally just gorgeous. They can be dramatic but I've never seen a single Maxwell green that is clearly crazy--they are beautifully conceived in every way although clearly not designed to run stimpmeter #s like 12 and above.

This is a good subject.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »


Re: Green Speed Up, Strategy Down.
« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2003, 05:04:53 AM »
Tom MacW said:

"Super fast greens seem to limit your possiblities."

That's a most complex subject. Super fast greens do limit possiblilities after a point has been reached. However, speeding up greens on some of the old contours to that point under the edge of reasonableness can really make a golf course sing, particularly for the better quality of player.

It's just amazing to me how much greenspeeds that highlight to the max green slopes and contours can have the most interesting strategic effect on a course and very much filtering all the way back to the tee. Talk about exentuating and highlighting interesting strategies and all of them--this does it bigtime!

In some cases the right amount of speed on older greens can even create in some greens the "greens within a green" situation which is one of the most functional, meaningful and sophisticated strategies in golf I know of.

However, this fascinating development comes with a most serious caveat! And that is to know what that SPEED LIMIT is and NEVER, EVER exceed it beyond the point of reasonableness to the point where ideas about softening and flattening begins to enter the heads of memberships.

If ever there was a campaign that Golfclubatlas might get on this could be it! Clubs should be made aware that their green contours, slopes etc can be much or most of the character of their course and the exceeding what's reasonable with greenspeeds should never be tolerated or even considered.

If you ask me any club and course should find that top speed and CAP that speed forever in their by laws and committee maintenance programs.

That's the speed the club and course should never again exceed and the option of softening should be made a club NONoption within the by laws.

I've offered this proposal to my club and I'll let you know how it's perceived, handled and hopefully implimented. If it is I'd like to take the idea of capping greenspeeds within club maintenance practices to other clubs.

The very first order of business logically would be to understand that stimpmeter numbers are NOT transportable from course to course. Each golf course needs to find their very own greenspeed limit (and of course that is some max stimp # that should never be exceeded).

It should also be made clear that the utility of the stimpmeter was only ever supposed to determine speed consistency throughout any golf course's greens. But now hopefully the stimpmeter might take on an even more important function of determining just what the speed LIMIT really is! And that should be noted and never exceeded in the future!
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:02 PM by -1 »

Sbusch (Guest)

Re: Green Speed Up, Strategy Down.
« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2003, 07:33:38 AM »
To expand on your excellent point, you could make the same argument about fairways, reversed.  As fairways have become overwatered and less conducive to roll, architects have been forced to remove dramatic slopes.  Slopes that the ball should roll off and create strategic options now create horrible lies in the middle of the fairway.

Also, isn't it ironic that Augusta, the club with the most amazing greens, is responsible for the green speed arms race?
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »


Re: Green Speed Up, Strategy Down.
« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2003, 08:32:58 AM »

As for the correct greenspeed LIMIT never to be exceeded I'd use the "Steve Curry greenspeed barometer" spoken about many times before on here. For that you just identify that pin position that you want to maintain as such that will go over the top first and determine the speed where that begins to happen and that speed (just below it) becomes the course's top greenspeed (and stimp max stimp #) for the rest of time.

Clearly any speed below that one can be used for whatever occasion but that's not really the point is it? Not exceeding that speed is the point, not how far to be below it at any particular time.

But when that particular pin position is determined to be near the speed of reasonableness you ask reasonable from where?

That's where the entire concept of "greens within a green" comes into play. You will probably find that the vast majority of greens, when at their max reasonable speed and when a golfer is somewhere on the green have various ways of reasonably two putting but often that may become complex far beyond what many now contemplate. The point is is it doable and to what degree? I think we will find it's far more doable than most know, although in many cases the how of it might need to be reexplored. But what could be more fun and interesting than that?

Not many greens I've found have areas on their green surfaces that create real greens within a green where two putting to certain pins from various other spots is NOT that realistically doable. The best example of real "greens within a green" is a number of the greens at NGLA (when they run their fast tournament speeds) where expecting a second putt of maybe less than 30 feet might be expecting a lot or maybe even not doable.

But to that I say, so what?

That's where some courses with there basically not doable two putts from certain areas to certain pins become incredibly and interestingly STRATEGIC! And as such it can very much filter sometimes all the way back to teeing grounds! How much better can strategic golf get than that?

But clearly some golfers in some places will complain about that. Why? Because, in my opinion, they're spoilt, they're thoughtless, they have little idea about what real golf strategy is or the nuances of it and they won't accept anything other than a very doable two putt (or up and down) from anywhere and everywhere.

If that's they way they really feel then, I say, so what, let them if they want to gut interesting strategies in golf, encourage thoughtfulness, dilute all kinds of interesting ways of planning golf shots, dilute imagination etc--basically all the things that make golf and its architecture interesting, challenging and great.

The fascinating irony of all this is this kind of thing is where golfers of lesser ability (in strength) can really excel against their stronger, longer opponents. These are the areas I sometimes call the areas of "little strategies"--ie the chipping, pitching, postioning and imaginative putting that takes more intelligence and very little strength. These are those areas where golfers of differing levels can actually be naturally Equalized! And how much better can that be for golf in an overall sense? This is where the old term cliche of the intelligence of the "tortoise" can overcome or equalize the strength and aggressiveness of the less thoughtful "hare".

We all know that many or most players cannot hit their ball the 275 yds of the really strong player, but certainly no one can say that any golfer with even a modicum of determination cannot out-think and out-fox his stronger opponent somehow in the vicinity of greens where strength is just not the factor.

This is the area where  really interesting equalizing becomes possible and doable--where other areas clearly aren't. And if they can do it here, think of the joy and satisfaction that will give the overall less able golfer.

I see nothing at all wrong with forcing any golfer to get their ball not just on a green but in the correct part of a green where they can reasonably expect a one or two putt semi automatically. I see no reason why all golfers should have that semi-automatic two putt (or up and down) expectation from anywhere or even anywhere on any green!

That's what golfers need to be convinced to begin to understand. Anything less begins to dilute strategy--and that's never good.

But if you're asking if that point should be 10ft, 20ft, putting off the green or whatever from the first putt, I just can't answer that and I don't want to. That kind of thing gets way too far into "formulaics" in golf and architecture for me.

Let them all figure these things out for themselves wherever their ball may be and use their intelligence to get it in the hole in the fewest strokes.

« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:02 PM by -1 »


Re: Green Speed Up, Strategy Down.
« Reply #6 on: February 18, 2003, 10:16:44 AM »

Mike Rewinski initially raised the subject in a thread entitled,
"Speed Kills".

I also commented on the resulting diminishment of the challenge on the approach and recovery shot, which are adversely affected to a good degree.

Interestingly, Seminole has recently softened some of their greens in the name of speed, yet not a word of protest was uttered.  I don't want to divert the thread, but if Fazio had been the architect there would have been an outcry that he was ruining another classic.  I think GCA should find out who the supervising architect was, and why he permited the alteration of these great Donald Ross greens.

Getting back to speed, I had previoulsy mentioned that if the trend continues, eventually, you'd be left with flat, uninteresting greens.  But, it's not just putting that would be affected, it would diminish the need for tactics on the approach as well.

One only has to look at the 1st green at NGLA to see how spectacular a little opening hole can be thanks to creative and challenging green contours.  Flattening that green would destroy a good part of the architecture, strategy and playability of the hole.

Many greens have lost critical pin locations due to speed, altering the play and strategy of the hole.

In addition, flattened greens rarely putt like the remaining unflattened or original greens, causing an inconsistency in the play of course in approach shots,chipping, pitching and putting.

Donald Ross indicated that greens are the most important feature on a golf course, yet, with increased green speeds, their character is lost, and as speeds increase each becomes more common, more alike rather than distinctive.

Flattening greens to accomodate increased speeds is a process that can only lead to greens void of character and challenge.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »


Re: Green Speed Up, Strategy Down.
« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2003, 10:54:23 AM »

Getting back to speed, I had previoulsy mentioned that if the trend continues, eventually, you'd be left with flat, uninteresting greens.  But, it's not just putting that would be affected, it would diminish the need for tactics on the approach as well.

Patrick and All.  Unfortunately, I must have missed the earlier threads where this was discussed.  The bold portion of Patrick's quote, above, really paraphrases what I was trying to say.

Patrick,  I'd really rather not hike the well-trodden Bias Trail in this thread, but I am interested in knowing how the softening of the greens at Seminole has altered the strategic decisions on approach and on the tree.  Can anyone offer any thoughts on this?

The questions in my original post were only partially rhetorical.  I really am interested in hearing specific examples of how increased speed has compromised strategic options, especially on classic courses.  

TEPaul.  Your comments about the greens at your club are interesting.  If, heaven forbid, these greens were soften or completely flattened, how would this alter the pre-green strategic options?  What about other of the great courses in the Philadelphia area?  

Thanks for your replies.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »


Re: Green Speed Up, Strategy Down.
« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2003, 11:22:33 AM »

Some greens at Seminole had to be softened, because increased green speeds caused the ball to literally "fall off" the green.  The increased green speeds also caused the loss of strategic pin locations, resulting in the area being uncupable and the loss of the approach and recovery shot to those locations.

Again, I would ask, who was the architect who recommended/supervised the alteration of these greens in the name of speed ?

Perhaps TEPaul knows or can find out.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »


Re: Green Speed Up, Strategy Down.
« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2003, 11:54:49 AM »
I do know some of the details of Seminole's "restoration" but unfortunately a year or more ago was asked nicely by a couple of those involved not to air things about it on Golfclubatlas--I agreed so I'll never do it. That golf club very much values certain of their privacies, their architect understands and abides by that and that's just the way it goes.

The firmness of Seminole's greens (not necessarily the speeds but the firmness) was well known last year and probably way over the top but that kind of thing can be very common, expected and endemic of new surfaces and just needs a bit of time to soften down some and correct itself which was all part of the expectation.

As far as I've been able to tell that was no error and again was expected. The evolution of the putting surfaces of Seminole is a complex one sometimes common to South Florida golf courses, particularly ones that close in the summer, as Seminole does. Most of the story has to do with continous topdressing and not some crazy quest for speed and to soften the greens in a quest for increased speed only. Continuous topdressing, stripping and that cycle over and over through time can change surface contours probably much like Pinehurst #2's green surfaces have evolved and changed in contour and slope over the decades.

So Pat, if you know something about Seminole making some huge architectural error of recontouring the surfaces of their greens only in the name of increased greenspeeds then by all means tell us the facts!  

But if you don't know those facts I see no reason to imply any facts here just to start another discussion in a long line of arguments about favoritism, bias and accountability. And saying if it had been Rees or Fazio who'd been the restoration architect at Seminole instead of someone else the hue and cry here would have been shrill is needlessly incendiary too. We don't need more of that constant discussion--we need less of it.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »


Re: Green Speed Up, Strategy Down.
« Reply #10 on: February 18, 2003, 12:10:14 PM »

The facts are that greens were altered/softened due to green speeds.

If you've been sworn to secrecy I understand and respect your position.

But, I do wonder how Merion's and Riviera's work would be received and perceived if they swore everyone to secrecy ?

I guess that's the key to avoiding criticism.
I wish I had thought of it.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »


Re: Green Speed Up, Strategy Down.
« Reply #11 on: February 18, 2003, 12:13:59 PM »
"I guess that's the key to avoiding criticism.
I wish I had thought of it."

Well, then, let it be said that you or maybe all of us can learn something--in this case from Seminole.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »

W.H. Cosgrove

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Green Speed Up, Strategy Down.
« Reply #12 on: February 18, 2003, 12:21:42 PM »
This 'situation' at Seminole reminmds me of the discussions we have had concerning Pinehurst #2.  Years of topdressing on Bermuda greens led to dramatic domed shapes.  When the 'restoration' of #2 was completed the saucer greens were recreated (different grass of course).  

We could go back and forth endlessly as to the proper approach that should be taken.  #2 took one approach and it sounds as though Seminole took the other.  I would guess that Seminole actually has the putting surfaces more true to the originals relative to #2.  Se Bradley Klein's book "Discovering Donald Ross".

Having gone back and re read the thread I see that TEP has gone much of this ground.  
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:02 PM by -1 »


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