Are Green Speeds Compromising the Integrity of Course Design?

In 1975, I designed a device – based on a concept originally developed by Eddie Stimpson in 1935 – to most effectively quantify the speed of greens. I had five wooden Stimpmeters built and asked the USGA agronomists to measure green speeds using this new device during their consultation visits.

The speeds of greens in 35 of the United States were analyzed in 1976 and recommendations made for various course set-ups conditions. The medium speed for everyday play was 6.5 feet; for club competitions 8.5 feet; and 10.5 feet for major and tour competitions. (As an aside, the green speed in the Bobby Jones era was approximately 4 feet, thus the need for his 8-degree lofted putter.)

Today agronomic practices have changed allowing speeds to increase – without damaging the grass plant or compromising the challenge – to about 1 ½ feet faster than the 1977 recommendations.

This takes the recommended green speed for major competitions – depending on the undulations — up to approximately 12 feet. At this speed, the integrity of most green designs is not compromised, while maintaining the optimal number of hole locations to about 24 while retaining a fair challenge for the skilled golfer.

Unfortunately, the green speeds for major competition have, in some cases, increased to the extent of detrimentally affecting the integrity of the green design and creating a fair challenge.

Share your thoughts below.



Click to view video of Frank talking about the invention of the Stimpmeter on The Golf Channel

For more information about the Stimpmeter visit


11 thoughts on “Are Green Speeds Compromising the Integrity of Course Design?

  1. This seems to be another example of changing the rules to accommodate the elite, without considering the effect on most of us average golfers. Where’s the fun in playing on a course that has greens that are so fast that it is impossible to hold them. Unless you can spin the ball like a pro it takes all the fun out of the game. If they really want to grow the sport they should stop this insanity and go back to reasonable green speeds.

  2. Unless we practice endlessly there is no way any of us can accurately determine the correct line of a sidehill downhill put on a 10 or 11 speed green. It takes too long and removes all the fun after missing the second putt.

  3. The problem is whatever the national golf associations do to speed up greens “has” to be followed by affiliated golf clubs so their members believe they are getting the latest and greatest in green design and course preparation techniques. The problem then becomes that these techniques are retro fitted to courses which were never designed with ultra quick greens in mind and the club members suffer accordingly. As far as I am concerned, lightning quick greens = course re-design. If that cannot happen then “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

  4. Thanks Frank for the appropriate scientific explanation. 20 yrs ago, I played many of the East Coast US Open venues and even then it was obvious that the green speeds sometimes exceeded design specs. I lipped out a 15 feet uphill putt and the ball came to rest 3 feet past where I was standing. Some enjoy this type of punishment, I do not. It brought a new meaning to home course advantage.

  5. Pros being as good as they are these days, adjusting the speed and firmness of greens is probably the easiest way to toughen up a course. But there should be an element of risk/reward. When you make a good shot to the front of a green and it rolls off the back and down the hill, there is no reward available.

  6. Frank-Is the USGA required to hold the green speeds to a specified number for its events? The 2018 US Open was an example when the course rapidly dried out that the speed went off the charts. Couple that with hole placements that could have been better selected would have produced a not so frustrating experience for the players to deal with during Saturdays’ play & the scoring would have been more in line with Sundays’ numbers. Your thoughts please.

  7. Great topic! It is amazing that many of today’s courses are able to create faster green speeds. I cry when I get to a course that rolls under 10. My home club runs 11+ or higher consistently and members love it. It certainly gets your attention on approach shots, chips & pitches and of course putts. The faster the better. As far as the US Open is concerned, weather (or lack of it) plays havoc on the course set up, including greens speeds and it is such a fine line from near perfect conditions to out-of-control conditions for sure. By the way, I have been playing a Frog Putter for the past few years along with a lesson a few years ago from the wonderful Valarie which did wonders for my putting, especially on fast greens.

    • If I recall correctly Mr Hootie Johnson was Chairman at that time …. probably choked on his blowfish when he heard it.

  8. It is a shame the organization you used to work for has taken green speeds so far in the direction of ridiculous. US Open greens this year looked like glass coated with baby oil ! Describing similar conditions at The Master several years ago Gary McCord of CBS said on air they looked as if they had been “bikini waxed”, which earned him a lifetime ban from the premises. Truth hurts sometimes, and it is also a shame some powers-that-be take offense when said truths are brought to their attention.

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