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


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

  1. I would like to see greens for the pros at 9 to 10 and see how much difference it makes. Also don’t cut them everyday during the tournament. Make it closer to what we play.

  2. On my home course, years ago, we had a US Open qualifier.
    It took me a couple years and a new putter with a soft face to get used to the speeds we had.
    I played the course the day before and the day after the qualifier. I could not keep the putts on the greens.
    I asked the pros , the next day when done what was the green speed?
    They said they got it to 13.5 on the stimp.
    We normally played at about 10.

    Way too fast.
    By the way, I was about a 6 handicap at the time!

  3. As a bogey golfer and a long time Frog. Frank and Valerie Fan, I believe Frank’s conclusions are spot on, as always! To increase the number of people playing golf, I believe golf can do it, but certainly NOT by making the game harder. It’s tough enough already. I do also think us bogey guys are in the majority don’t you think? Why not conform to what the majority of your “customers” would like to see?

  4. If a ball won’t stay in one place without rolling away, the green is too fast or too steep. I’m tired of impossible greens.

  5. I had the priviledge of playing some of our top eastern courses and remember just barely tapping a 12 ft. downhill putt for birdie at Merion. Got a piece of the cup and rolled about 10 ft past. My comeback putt horseshoed out and the ball rolled several feet past where I was standing. Played Baltusrol the next day with a local pro and told him about my experience and he replied what Frank just explained. These greens were designed when the stimp was about 5 and today at 12 with modern agricultural practices, they’re way past the original design specs. The members seem to get pleasure out of watching tormented guests. The U.S. Open at Shinnecock and seeing the world’s best putt past the hole and then off the green says it all.

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