Every once in a while, a Tour player says something not only smart but that I agree with. My current hero is Rickie Fowler, who, prior to playing in July’s Scottish Open, said he enjoys the challenge of putting on slower greens and that they expose bad strokes and mishits better than fast surfaces do.
“You have to use your imagination as far as creativity and trying to judge how much the wind will affect it,” said Fowler, explaining that greens in the 10 to 11 range on the Stimpmeter are just fine, especially when the wind blows.
“Slower greens may accentuate a mishit putt more,” he added. “Whereas if you have a downhill putt in the States, you kind of just have to hit it to get it going. Here [in the UK], you mishit it a little bit uphill, into the wind, and it can be a pretty big difference. At the end of the day, you just have to hit solid putts.”
Amen, Brother Fowler! I couldn’t agree more. For years, my mantra has been “slow it down.” There is not place in golf – regular or championship – for unreasonably fast greens. Note the word “unreasonably,” because that’s key: greens that are super slick for no reason other than to embarrass golfers are a disservice to the game.
We all know “how” to make greens extra-fast; it’s the “why” I’m questioning. Who wants to three- or four-putt? What’s the fun in that? Isn’t the goal to complete your round in the fewest strokes possible? Why artificially inflate that number – and aggravate your customers at the same time?
If you are pushing your greens to their speed limit, stop for a moment and consider why. I’m willing to bet it’s a few of the more vocal (or testosterone-fueled) members who think fast greens indicate a good, tough course. Or because the course across the street keeps its greens in the teens, they’re applying pressure on you to do the same. There’s no sense in that: You should be doing what is best for your course and those who play it, not someone’s ego – yours or a few of your members’. Yes, yes, I know, easier said than done, but …
Maybe the most important reason not to make greens too fast is that it can be a surefire way to lose the grass. We all know that nothing happens faster than crop failure. Push the turf at the wrong time of the year and it may not only be the grass that’s lost. Your job could be next.
If your players with little agronomic and architectural understanding want to know why you’re keeping the greens slower, here’s a list of common-sense explanations:
- Slower greens increase the challenge because they are harder to read, figure the break and determine how hard they should be struck.
- Slower greens encourage a more aggressive, offensive putting style rather than the more defensive (scared) approach faster greens require.
- Slower greens allow the golfer to be more aggressive with incoming shots, as well. That’s not just me saying that. PGA Tour player Pat Perez has said it, too.
- Fast greens = slow play.
- Courses originally built more than 50 years ago were never meant to have fast greens. Everything we consider “classic” – mounds, rolls, pitches, sloping green surrounds – were put there for strategic reasons. The artistry and creativity of course architecture are lost when speeds become excessive and the character is removed from the design.
- The need for speed has created modern greens that are little more than pool tables – flat, smooth, and predictable.
- Fast greens limit shot options.
- Just because you see something on TV doesn’t make it right for your course, either agronomically or in relation to the abilities of your regular players. And here’s a little secret: When the Tour leaves town, those greens are allowed to grow back, making them slower and healthier.
- Slow grass is better than fast dirt.
- You like your job and want to keep it, while keeping the course in its best possible condition.
The magic of golf is thinking your way around the course, seeing what the architecture, agronomy and conditions give you, and choosing the best shots to handle the situation. Making greens too fast eliminates many of those options and frustrates players. Has anyone ever complimented you on making a green so fast that he putted off it?
Or look at it this way: Do you think fast greens will help grow the game?
When one of your members or regulars complains about the slow green speeds, I offer this bit of advice: “Hit it harder.”