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Our game’s obsession with fast greens is killing us

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The post-Masters buzz, minus some musing about Tiger’s return, was all about 15-inch holes.

It was HackGolf’s first initiative, a way to infuse a little more fun into the game and, hey, what’s not amusing about watching Sergio Garcia putting into a bucket-sized hole.

Unfortunately, it missed a larger point.

It is not hole size, but rather our obsession with perfect putting surfaces and double-digit green speeds — even for casual play — that’s the issue.

Our demand for fast and “fair” putting surfaces has added time, increased cost and actually corrupted the process of playing the game, say some of the game’s brightest minds. Remember when golf had a nice hit-walk-hit-repeat flow? Now insert a 15-minute meeting in the middle of it — that’s putting — and you have modern golf. We’ve upset the balance of a game that had perfect balance. We putt with crankshafts and make strokes so tentative and fearful our playing companions want to yell, “It’s good! Let’s go!”

“All you need to know about green speeds,” says Geoff Shackelford, an expert on golf course architecture and an architect himself, “is when the anchoring debate took place, it was largely an American issue because we push the boundaries of common sense with green speeds. Sure, there are exceptions in Europe and Asia, but for the most part this is an American obsession that we are sadly trying to export. And all it does it raise cost, expense, stress and does not add enjoyment to the game.”

Fast greens are fun to putt, but they are, as Shackelford points out, a costly luxury, costly in so many ways.

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Let’s start with pace of play, which the 15-inch hole took aim at. Dr. Lou Riccio, Columbia professor and author of “Golf’s Slow Play Bible,” estimates that every foot green speed adds 10 and possibly 15 minutes to a round.

“Of all the things related to the course which can be adjusted, green speeds are very important to pace,” he says.

He’s being conservative, especially for amateurs struggling with speeds of 11 to 13. I can still remember the day we played the stroke-play club championship qualifier on surfaces running between 12 and 13. It took an hour longer than our usual rounds on greens of 9 or 10.

Al Radko, the former USGA Green Section director once said, “No matter where the golfer is putting from, it should be possible to stop the ball within 2 feet of the hole.” That sounds easy, but on greens of 11, 12 or 13, it’s rare that weekend players can do it. Instead of tap-ins, he or she must take time to line up that second (and often third) putt… tick, tick, tick… and then dramatize the miss. Fear of three-putting then infects pitches and chips to such greens, requiring more “planning.”

“How could the chase for double-digit Stimpmeter speeds do anything but slow the game down and give people the yips?” Shackelford says. “Plus, there’s the complete lack of fun in modern greens, which have to be built flatter for this silly pursuit of marble-like surfaces.”

The cost of ultra-fast greens, in dollars and environmental damage, is outrageous. Since the 1970s, average green speeds have increased more than 50 percent. Mowing heights have dropped by half.

“Consistently keeping greens at tournament speeds has costs that few golf courses have the resources to deal with or consequences that golfers will tolerate,” warned a Wisconsin study in 2002.

That advice went largely unheeded.

“If you compare [fast greens] with human beings,” advises the Golf Course Superintendents Association (GCSAA), “it would be fair to say that their immune systems can be very weak. They become susceptible to diseases and pests, and therefore may require more chemical treatments. Weather can also quickly destroy the health of an ultrafast green. High temperatures and lack of moisture in the air are deadly to greens that are maintained at very short cutting heights for any length of time.”

Our Connecticut club’s superintendent, who has successfully prepared a strong Tillinghast course for four USGA championships over three decades, takes enormous grief when he depresses green speeds during difficult growing conditions. But he’s avoided what four nearby clubs have suffered in the past five years: complete loss of their putting surfaces.

This obsession with speed has even warped the way evaluate courses. Without slick greens, good courses get poor reputations while profligate ones, expending water and chemicals at will, often become models to emulate. First question I got after playing one 100 Greatest course: “How many 3-putts did you have?” The questioner added proudly that when the tour played the course they slowed the greens down.

On the PGA Tour, putting is so important it’s fooled us about what we’re watching. When Rickie Fowler finished in the top 5 at the Masters this year, writers were quick to credit Fowler’s recent move to Butch Harmon. Harmon’s great for sure, but Fowler led the field in putting at 1.5 putts per hole. He hit slightly more than half of his greens in regulation.

Tragically — and that’s the word for it — our obsession with perfectly fast putting surfaces has not only wasted water and added pesticides, it’s blown a small fortune, which we pass on to the golfer. If the game needs a new rallying cry it’s not “15-inch holes.” It’s “9 is Fine” on the Stimpmeter.

“The saddest part of all this?” Shackelford says. “Good players struggle on slow greens. So the more courses speed things up, the more it hurts the average golfers and helps the elite player. What a needless mess!

So: Cost. Pace of Play. Difficulty. Environmental concerns. Equipment regulation. Rules debates. The sport’s big issues.

What one aspect of golf is intricately involved with each? Yep, greens.

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Bob Carney is a Contributing Editor at Golf Digest, writing for the magazine, its web site and sister publication Golf World. He’s an avid golfer and a single-digit handicap who has earned awards for his coverage of the industry and recreational golf. He is co-author, with Davis Love Jr. and Bob Toski, of How to Feel a Real Golf Swing. Prior to joining Golf Digest, Carney wrote for the Bergen (NJ) Record and contributed stories to People Magazine and Time, among others. He earned a B.A. From University of Michigan, attended Columbia University Journalism School, and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand, where he managed to get in one or two rounds of golf.

164 Comments

164 Comments

  1. bradford

    Jul 31, 2014 at 7:51 am

    There are probably only a handful of clubs in the country that ever see a 13 anyway, which is why this article is a complete waste of words…all it does is convince already poorly managed clubs that the greens don’t matter. 9-11 would be great, problem is…everyone thinks the greens they putt at a 7-8 are rolling at 10. No, the problem is absolutely not the green speeds because quite frankly, they’re not where they think they are and they’re just not that fast. I’m talking about normal public golf here. Yes, privately funded courses can get fast (majority still nowhere near 12-13) and they have every right to keep the greens in great shape because it’s their money and no blog on the internet will have much effect. But if you hold up play at a club, you better believe there will be someone up your ass about it. I’ve played hundreds of rounds at clubs, and probably never over 4 hours, in fact considerably faster than the slower greened public courses. This brings up what I’ve said before, and the actual solution to slow play, which is proper rangering, and proper control over who can play “from the back”. Single digits only on the blues, and if you fall behind we will move you forward.

  2. Ho Chi Chi Vinh Mink

    Jul 30, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    IMHO all you people who say fast greens are the only way golf is to be played…fess up you are really posers with 18 handicaps…cmon tell the truth now

    In 1976 the average green speed on the PGA Tour was 7.5

  3. Matt

    Jul 30, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    Fast and true greens are what makes good golf, great.

    Fast and true putting surfaces are what makes this game great. Slow play is slow play, not fast greens.

    If people play ready golf, the debate is moot as once on the green, people should PUTT OUT.

    Use continuous putting and quit complaining that you are not good at putting and want everything slower for the bad putters.

    A stupid and very pointless argument. No one wants to tell paying customers to play faster, they want to dumb down the game (slow greens).

    Dumb down the game, and you get soccer golf. ( park hill golf club Colorado). ridiculous.

    • Ho Chi Chi Vinh Mink

      Jul 30, 2014 at 4:26 pm

      Get an education

      • bradford

        Jul 31, 2014 at 7:33 am

        What makes you think he’s uneducated? The only idiotic responses I see here are from you.

  4. Frank

    Jul 12, 2014 at 9:10 am

    Is it difficult to have an average for all courses? Lets say 10 is the ideal speed. Why wouldnt there be a concensus for most courses to strive for that number?

    Anywho, Money talks and we are having this conversation because the industry is suffering.

  5. Dan

    Jul 9, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    I’m a little late to this debate but, I like fast greens, maybe not 12-13 but, 9-11 isn’t bad. I just want them mowed and in good condition. I agree with some of the above about how watching tv golf is the problem. They look at the putt from every angle and then do it again but, remember what they are playing for. The rest of us should be looking at the green as we come up to it to see the lay of it. Mark our ball, give a look from behind to see what the break is, a quick look from the side to see if it is uphill or downhill and then step up, get set and putt. This is my routine and I feel like putting is the best part of my game. I don’t overthink.

  6. James

    Jul 9, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    So now slow play is being blamed on fast greens. What will be next? Don’t blame the players for being slow. No, blame something else. In my experience slow play is caused simply by people not being ready when it their turn and taking too many damned practice swings because they see Pros do that on TV. If the PGA Tour actually enforced slow play rules and cut out all the nonsense that players do that cause slow play then slow play would start fading in the amateur ranks. Blaming the greens is lame as anything for slow play. My home course has pretty fast greens and most foursomes play in 3 1/2 hours. The ones who take longer are the ones taking all the practice swings, walking off yardages, reading putts from every angle they can and so forth. That’s what causes slow play not fast greens. Get a clue.

    • Chris

      Jul 24, 2014 at 8:23 pm

      Maybe you should just get off your high horse and realize that greens ARE a contributing factor in slow play. While I’m sure you’re a scratch golfer who never has a mis-hit, some people require practice swings to build confidence before a shot. YOU get a clue.

  7. Don

    Jul 8, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    I’m a 6 handicap and feel the greens should be at a good speed, not an unbearable speed but a 10 sounds good. There is nothing more disappointing then getting to the course and you find out they didn’t cut the greens, puts a negative to start your round right off the bat.

  8. Martin Chuck

    Jun 29, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    I agree, we’ve become accustomed to pure, fast greens. But…the game was grown on 9, or less stimped greens where fear wasn’t stricken into every player! Great article in my opinion. That said, we are all spoiled now and going backwards is tough…

    • bradford

      Jul 21, 2014 at 1:37 pm

      9 wouldn’t be backwards for 99% of the clubs. The vast majority of public clubs don’t run anywhere near 9, it’s just that people think they do because that SAY they do. There are courses on tour that run at a 10, and with any kind of slope on the green, 10 is crazy fast.

      The problem with this article is that it’s completely arbitrary. At no point does he even mention what he thinks the actual speeds are, and as far as pace of play for the average person, RAISING the speeds to 9 won’t accomplish this even if there were actual data to support this falsity false falsitude.

      • Ho Chi Chi Vinh Mink

        Jul 30, 2014 at 4:24 pm

        In 1976 the average green speed on the PGA Tour was 7.5

        • Robert

          Jul 30, 2014 at 8:19 pm

          I don’t know where you get your info, but the Stimpmeter wasn’t actually used on Tour regularly in 1976. It was tested at the US Open that year, but it wasn’t even issued to superintendents until years later. And I am pretty sure the US Open didn’t have a 7.5 Stimp reading…

          • bradford

            Dec 30, 2014 at 8:11 am

            Yeah, Ho Chi is an idiot, don’t bother

  9. Chris

    Jun 25, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    Any courses out there using synthetic greens? I’d be open to trying it out

    • Straightdriver235

      Jun 28, 2014 at 10:18 am

      I have to largely agree with Mr. Carney here. Indeed, the arguments in the comment section seem to reflect a curious blindness to several important issues. The most interesting thing I heard in that article was the long putter was an American issue. The responses opposing slower greens confirm this sort of American blindness.

      To me golf is and should be mostly about ball striking… I see nothing out of bounds or lacking in common sense with that. All the greats have been recognized for their ballstriking. People want to spend time working on their long games–it’s more fun, more interesting–it’s what draws people to the game. As a public course player, yes I have lamented going hot, stringing 5 or 6 approaches to within 10 feet or less in a row and missing almost all the putts because the greens were inconsistent and bumpy. So what. After a lifetime of reflection I think the pros should have to play it that way, too.

      It’s an environmental issue. It’s a cost issue. It’s a democratic issue, and it is an issue about what the game should really be played like and how… with minimal emphasis on the part of the game most akin to lawn bowling, and greater rewards for superior ball striking from a distance and with deftness aspects of pitching. Fast greens are okay once in a while, but they work best on small greens. More fun is to putt slow greens with generous breaks in them and some uncertainties in the roll if all face that challenge. Contrary to the illogic of many of the negative commentators, the “luck aspect” of less maintained greens will tend to favor the superior ball striker over the long haul–hit the green, get up and putt, take away that precision to a small degree and increase it with the need for a gamier feel. Another plus: slower greens make possible better and more creative play around the greens; it is fun to use your skill to flop a shot over the bunker and stick it in close to make a par, but when that excellent shot rolls 14 feet past the cup, it diminishes the achievement and pleasure.

      Slower, less manicured, more organic greens are a must for golf’s future. We missed this argument with the need for a lower compression ball, and limits on technology that have caused outdated courses, expensive redesigns, etc. We are missing the clear logic of this one now. I predict we will continue to miss it due to the inordinate impact of the “pro game” on the recreational game. Putting can still be a challenge, something to practice, but reduced emphasis on this part of the game can only be a good thing… if you want to putt fast fair greens go to a putt putt. If you want to play golf where ball striking and strategy and luck are rewarded you go to St. Andrews.

      • bradford

        Jun 30, 2014 at 7:23 am

        American blindness? That’s an ignorant thing to say. I’ll leave it at that.

        EVERYONE hits the long ball well now, so the beginning of your response is virtually contradictory to the end. It’s not the green speed that causing the expensive re-designs, in fact…that’s the only thing left protecting the courses on the tour.

        So we should all follow this advice…skip the putting green and go bang drivers down the range? Bomb and gouge for the win? THIS is the junk that’s ruining the game.

        • Christobel

          Jul 24, 2014 at 8:26 pm

          Everyone hits the long ball well? We must not be playing at the same courses…

  10. Jack

    Jun 2, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    I play public courses in East Tennessee and the things that I see that seem to slow down play are people hunting balls, inordinate number of practice swings, not playing ready golf, alcohol, swats (best ball with foursomes playing for money-I HATE playing behind these messes), hard courses (either by design or more often poor maintenance), and in some cases people that cannot do anything with a sense of purpose and energy.

    You can be a bad golfer and play fast. Most of the golfers that I know of that play fast are pretty good. They do not wonder around in weeds and woods for hours looking for a ball that they cannot play anyway. They drop a ball, hit their shot, and move on.

    I would prefer to play on greens with sensible speed somewhere in the middle. Actually, I would not mind smaller greens if the money spent on the really large green could be spent to keep the fairways up with some aeration (that should not hurt the environment) and a little grass to hit off of. My home course is in horrible shape with a messed up irrigation system, fairways hard as a rock, tee boxes that you will break a tee trying to get it in the ground, etc. Stand around for 5-10 minutes after each shot in those conditions watching some goober hunting balls and then taking ten practice swings only to skull his ball into the woods again and see how much fun you have.

    • Perry

      Jun 24, 2014 at 3:37 pm

      This comment is dead on. I play in a work league and am an 8 handicap that sometimes gets paired with 20-30 handicaps… The 30 handicaps can keep up just fine. They take little time to address the ball, if they can’t find their ball in 20 seconds, they drop another, and they are realistic and don’t wait for the green to clear on every par 5 (and long par 4’s for that matter)…

      It seems the people that slow golf the most are the folks that are mid-cappers that wait for the group in front of them to clear 300 yards because they hit a 300 yard drive once 2 years ago, or wait for every par 5 to clear so they can hit at it in 2.

      Also, I think every course should make out of bounds the equivalent to a hazard in non tournament play.

    • Ho Chi Chi Vinh Mink

      Jul 30, 2014 at 4:29 pm

      +1 Jack

  11. jc

    May 22, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    I HATE slow greens….some courses make it so a ball will stop downhill on a slope…the only people that like slow greens are bad putters..
    a person with a good short game is cheated when a twitchy hack can slam it and still have the ball stop by the hole.

    • Larry

      May 31, 2014 at 11:29 pm

      5 hour plus rounds are getting to be the norm at both our local public courses, and 5 and half for sure if you follow the men’s clubs (where it seems even the 24 handicap needs to read his putts from both sides of the cup in hopes of that 5 dollar skin). 9 or less should be sold rule for public courses…

  12. Ram

    May 21, 2014 at 3:45 am

    Speed doesn’t come from lower cutting heights, it comes from building the base up fthroigh top dressing. Also, bent grass needs to be starved of water. I’ve played many classic old clubs here in Chicago with speeds at 10+ for years, and you’ll never be asked to play again if you can’t get around in 4 hours. Public golf is slow, and it’s not because of green speeds that out of hand. I wish. Slow greens take all the fun out of the game IMO, uniformity in green speeds is what we need. Going from 6 to 11 to 8 to 7, to 10 causes slow play, and people who aren’t ready to play when it’s their turn.

  13. Norm Platt

    May 16, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    Here in southern Ontario many courses are clay based supported with a healthy sand base for the greens. Having taken an anecdotal straw poll of course superintendents, the consensus is that fast greens are great for a short period of time; like the club championships or a special event. Otherwise it is too risky to keep them too shaved. With greens too shaved the risk is that they are too stressed from the sun, wind and lack of water.
    In a perfect world like Augusta National, they can close the course for months and let the surface grow and rest. If your a busy mini or private club then it’s suicide to keep the greens too quick continually.
    And as stated many times on this board very few of us have putted on super quick greens. I marshalled for a Skins Game back in the mid nineties where the greens were double cut and rolled to bring them to a 13 and only Nick Faldo broke par. This is with Ben Crenshaw, Nick Price and Fred Couples in the event. That should tell us something.

  14. MG

    May 15, 2014 at 10:25 am

    Totally disagree with the article premise and it’s complete lack of research to back it up. Only other peoples opinions. I’m a bad golfer who puts an premium on fast rounds. I’ve avg’ed 2.2 putts per hole since last November. 2 weeks ago i played the fastest greens in my life (waldorf astoria orlando – no clue what they were on the stripmeter) and i only had 31 putts for the day. My chips rolled closer (only rolled the back off one green) and it felt like all my second putts were gimmes. Slow greens clearly slow my day down more than fast.

    • Justinb

      May 19, 2014 at 7:49 pm

      Carney wrote an excellent article, with enough support. Read some of Shackleford’s work for more enlightenment. If what you say is true, you are an exception to the rule. The good news is, if your club does slow its greens down, you’ll adjust.

    • Ryan

      May 22, 2014 at 1:54 am

      How in the world do you critique someone for a lack of research and then use one single anecdote to support your counter point?

      • Daniel V

        Jun 4, 2014 at 1:36 pm

        Give this man a Cigar (not sarcastically, I really want to give you a Cigar)

  15. bradford

    May 13, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    Race cars should be slower, ski slopes less steep, and professional baseball fields are WAY too big for me to play. I want 45 yard football fields, lacrosse balls that don’t hurt if they hit me, and skydiving should be limited to just several feet. Soccer should be played at a jog, all that running is hard to keep up with. While we’re at it can we get some paint by numbers? Art is hard too.

    I honestly can’t believe this griping about fast greens is being so seriously entertained. Just like the stupid 15″ cup this is game-killing nonsense and should be ignored.

    • Justinb

      May 19, 2014 at 7:56 pm

      Read the article again. It isn’t just pace of play, but cost that gets messed up. The cost to keep the greens fast is high, and we pay for it. Enough people decide they don’t want to eat that cost and guess what? Either the greens are slowed down or the course is closed. Enough courses pick the latter choice, and where are we left?

      Isn’t it better to golf on greens that read 10 on the Stimp than to not golf at all?

      • bradford

        May 20, 2014 at 8:16 am

        Backing off of progress is the lazy answer to the problem. Do you really think the savings from the chemical or greens keeping budget will be passed to you? It won’t. There are other solutions that don’t involve taking steps backward, but rather intelligent steps forward.

        I’s be perfectly happy with a 10 all the time, but if this “initiative” takes hold, it does nothing but arm the cheapskate golf courses with yet another reason to offer crap conditions. The impetus needs to remain on them to provide the best quality they can, at a competitive price—it’s the only way it can work. Remember that most courses that tell you they roll 10 are probably at about an 8, so an actual 10 would be great.

        • Evan

          Jul 1, 2014 at 8:41 am

          Progress… very soon, using less water and chemicals will be considered progress. Most golfers commenting on this are commenting only as golfers. Considering the game is played on a million acres, the current trends of perfect conditions requiring more water and chemicals is not healthy and sustainable. More golfers should be concerned about this as many non golfers will be.

          Golf is a game… let’s put the health of our environment (these chemicals find their way off the course) first. Let’s put irrigation in agriculture first in areas that have drought. I was wondering how the west was coping with a drought yet the golf courses remained open and green. Looks like we’re more concerned with perfect golf courses than our produce.

          Look at the US Open at Pinehurst, this was done as a simple for more courses to be environmentally friendly. No need for perfectly green conditions all over the golf course as long as the course is playable. Numerous times they sited how much water is saved and how much of the course is now being naturally maintained… this is a very deliberate statement that the USGA and Pinehurst is trying to make about the future of golf maintenance.

  16. James Spearing

    May 13, 2014 at 4:36 am

    Guys,

    The article mentions that fast greens are killing the game for players who arent as good. That is common sense. The same as if they had to play from the back tees on a championship course, or if the rough was high enough to lose balls on wayward shots.

    If a course is open with slowish greens then who does it favour? Those golfers who can hit it miles but in any direction and golfers who dont rely on their short game. Fast true greens suit players who rely on their shortgames for their scores (i.e. low handicap players). We can’t shoot the lights out on bumpy greens that differ when sometimes chips in spin and check and other times bound on. This is what levels the field.

    Being a category 1 golfer, I play in as many Open Competitions as I can to challenge myself to tougher conditions (length of course, speed of greens etc), but even though I play on quick greens, they do not begin to come even close to 14 on the Stimp. I would say 99.9% of golfers have no idea how fast even 10 is on a stimpmeter. most of the courses I play are around 9 and they are what you would call fast. 14 is absolutely absurd and almost unplayable. To have a 5 putt from 15 foot as someone mentioned is not unheard of. I very much doubt more than 1 or 2 golfers on this thread have putted even on a 10 or 11 stimped green. If you get a downhill downwind putt, they fly and can go on forever.

    As someone else mentioned, 9 is fine for me also. Shouldn’t we all aspire to be the best golfer we can though and challenge ourselves? be ready to hit your shot when its your turn, not put your glove on, then check the wind, then check yardage, then get a club, check the wind again, change your mind, a few practise strokes and then hit. Dont leave bags the wrong side of greens. If you are first to tee off on the next hole, be the first to the tee box and mark the card once you have hit. Doing this alone can easily make up for the time playing on fast greens.

    • bradford

      May 13, 2014 at 9:39 am

      I agree completely, but I wanted to add this is why the article is ridiculous. Since the hugely vast majority of courses aren’t rolling a 10 or above, the “9 is fine” would probably be a step up for most public courses. I think plenty of people have played 10’s and 11’s, they’re more rare, but they’re around–and they’re usually the “fastest greens I’ve ever seen in my whole life”. I have to agree that VERY few people have seen an actual 13+, and most wouldn’t enjoy putting a one footer three feet by the hole on a lip out.

      • Justinb

        May 19, 2014 at 8:00 pm

        Agree, especially considering the people thar could even handle 11+ on the Stimp comprise only <5% of the entire golfing population.

  17. ken

    May 13, 2014 at 12:04 am

    I believe there must be a balance stuck here.
    Fast greens are nice to putt on. Pool tables are not fun.
    Fuzzy sluggish greens suck as well.
    Look, with all the weather related issues affecting greens turf grasses, it’s time to look at this not only from a playing condition factor, but one a agronomy as well.
    Here in the mid south, many courses are being forced to switch to warm season grasses. Particularly the new hybrids min verde and champion Bermuda. These putt true and fast. Are highly drought and heat tolerant and remain green almost year round. The only drawback is when overnight temps drop below the low 20’s, these greens must be covered to keep the surface temperature above freezing.
    One other issue, these grasses have very dense foliage. Which means fast greens but also means they are less receptive to shots than bent grass or Poa Annua. The latter is found in greens in the northeastern US
    The bottom line is gold courses have to find ways to reduce costs which in turn permit the management to control the price of a round. It’s also better for the environment to not have to use excessive watering or pesticides. BTW, many pesticides and fertilizers are petroleum based. And we all know the issues regarding the price of oil.

  18. Nick

    May 12, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    This is only accurate to people who aren’t very good. I can’t stand slow greens. Can’t putt on them. And when they’re bumpy, I’d rather not play. It’s not fun, it’s not fair, and it just ruins a big part of the game.

    I’m lucky enough to play at a club with lightning fast pure greens sometimes, and I make so many more putts. Fast greens are detrimental to people who aren’t good, but honestly, where are there public courses with fast greens? They’re very rare (read: nonexistent) anywhere near me.

    • ken

      May 12, 2014 at 11:53 pm

      If you or anyone else for that matter is as good a golfer as you imply here, then you have the skill to adjust to both fast and SLOW(er) greens.
      If not, you’re just not that good.
      That is not intended as a criticism, it is just the way it is.

      • bradford

        May 13, 2014 at 9:48 am

        I think paying the premium of the club allows anyone to have their preference met…I’d be pissed to join a club and have them slow the greens so that pace of play could speed up, especially when there is no legitimate correlation between the two. Making the course considerably shorter will also speed play–shall we now make our courses par 55 with a total length of 4200 yards? That would sure make the game faster too…OR, we could focus on what really makes the game slower and stop trying to make the game easier.

      • Paul

        Jul 7, 2014 at 9:21 pm

        Ken, you could not be more wrong. When greens are quick, you can “roll” putts, and when they are slow you have to “hit” putts. It makes a huge difference for me personally outside of 10 feet.

        It is more manageable for someone who has a short putting stroke and hits their putts, but if you have a longer, smoother stroke, slow greens are much more difficult.

        Perhaps you just don’t know what its like to roll putts? Maybe your a hitter, and thats find, but make no mistake, it is much tougher for some us to putt on slow greens as opposed to fast ones.

  19. scottgerweck

    May 12, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    I agree with the overall suggestion of the author: that an obsession with extremely fast greens is damaging on a number of levels.

    That said, the greatest cause of slow play is slow play. I play competitive speedgolf and don’t generally lose more than a couple strokes off my handicap while running, playing with just a few clubs, and finishing 18 holes in 45 minutes or so. Walking a round of golf in a foursome of average players playing from the proper tees should not take more than 4 hours on all but a very small minority of courses.

    Do faster greens make for more three putts and, therefore, more total time on the green? Absolutely. Is that difference at the heart of, or even a major component of, the slow play issue? No way. Players who read their putts from 3-4 angles and take multiple practice swings/strokes on every shot (like the pros they watch on tv) are the problem. Try hitting every putt within 10 seconds of getting to the ball sometime as an experiment and see how much better or worse you do–you might be surprised.

  20. Tom Allinder

    May 12, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    A few years ago, I was playing in an tournament. I was in the Championship flight with 3 handicappers and below. It seemed as though a number of the host courses tried to outdo each other in green speed and course set up.

    They put the tee markers at the very back of the tee boxes and shaved the greens down as well as the grass around the greens to create substantial roll-offs into high rough and other hazards.

    They proudly announced before the round got underway that the greens were rolling at “14 on the stimp”.

    On the first hole, one guy in our foursome 5 putted from 12 feet. The rest of us had our adventures on the greens that day as well.

    Bottom Line: Its fine to have courses set up at 7500 yards and greens at 14 on the stimp for TOUR PROS. The average 3 handicapper would need nearly a stroke a hole to actually compete with a TOUR PRO.

    No one had any fun that day and scores in the high 80s and 90s abounded with the best round being a 77… nope, not much fun.

    • Nick

      May 12, 2014 at 6:36 pm

      I feel as though this is different. I’ve seen greens get out of hand, but I’ve never played on any. If you 5 putt, you’re not a good putter or the pin position was unfair. You’d have to be putting on glass to 5 putt from 12 feet at a fair hole location. 14 is obviously really quick, but 5 putts? Come on. The fastest I’ve putted on was 13 iirc, and that was glorious.

      • Tim

        May 13, 2014 at 12:20 am

        No, this doesn’t sound different at all. If an entire championship flight (handicaps of 3 and less) has this kind of trouble, there’s something wrong. Everyone in the flight can’t be a bad putter. This sounds like an example of someone taking some perverse level of pride in setting things up so everyone struggled, putting everyone in their place so to speak. I’ve putted on greens ranging from 7 to 13. Was one significantly better than the other? Different yes, better not necessarily. When Bobby Jones first saw a stimpmeter, he asked what it was for. He was told it was to measure green speed and would help them achieve consistency in speed. He asked why was that important, and mentioned that’s what practice rounds were for. If some swank elitist course wants to spend the time/money/chemicals to achieve greens that make the game more difficult, let them and have their membership pay for that “privilege”. Why not just lay some felt over a concrete base and then see how much everyone enjoys playing on that? Let the rest of us enjoy the game, and give the environment a break as well. I’m a 4 handicap that agrees that “9 is fine”.

  21. Larry

    May 12, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    Most of these comments miss the most important point. The cost–both in money and environmental damage–of fast greens. Golf is an expensive sport to play. And making it more expensive by excessively maintaining courses/greens will eventually take the game back to the exclusive sport it was in the early years.
    The environmental damage resulting from over-managing greens as well as fairways, and watering fence to fence will become the biggest problem facing the game in the future. The chemicals applied and the resulting human health problems, the damage to surrounding areas with rain runoff, etc needs to be addressed. We can only do Augusta for so long before doing so destroys the game.

    • Bogie

      May 12, 2014 at 1:02 pm

      The slow putters will also be slow players. I love fast greens and can play 9 holes in 1 1/2 hours, walking. It’s the players who take the time, not the putt. So we should blame the putting surface for slow play? That’s a cop out and not true.

      • Nhat

        May 12, 2014 at 1:42 pm

        Good for you, buddy. Impressed you can play so fast! How many gimmies do you give yourself? Or are you a scratch golfer?

        So if slow putters are also slow players, how does it make sense to make them take even more time on the greens by making greens faster and faster?

        I, too, can play a round in less than 4hrs walking but I like to take my time with putts because it’s the most important part of the game.

        • Nick

          May 12, 2014 at 6:41 pm

          He is right. Slow players are always slow players. Greens have to be incredibly fast to make that big of a difference. To me, slow greens make me slow. Bc I have to take a lot more putts.

        • bradford

          May 15, 2014 at 9:22 am

          Why would you assume he doesn’t putt out? I can play in 1.5hrs too.. 4 hours walking is no feat, it should be the norm. Our foursomes in Fl consistently play in 3:15 (albeit in carts), on some of the fastest greens in the country. Sure, take your time on the putts…but if you’re up, you’d better be ready to hit the ball. Line it up during other people’s putts, and if you need more time…you should probably be walking pretty quickly to get there, otherwise shorten your routine.

          • Jack

            May 16, 2014 at 6:00 am

            If the 18 hole course is wide open, I can play it in 3.5 hrs. Executive 9 hole courses are often shorter anyway, so 1.5 hrs is quite doable.

          • Rich

            May 22, 2014 at 1:30 pm

            My wife and I reserve the first tee time of the day and routinely finish a round <2.5 hours on greens that are ~10.

    • George Wright

      May 12, 2014 at 2:42 pm

      While I see merit in this opinion, I find it disturbing that Mr. Shackeford and the GCSAA are quoted as using such “blanket” statements; As if these cost/grass health concerns are universal throughout the country/world.

      Grass type, green construction/contours/hole locations, and climate play an important role in what green speed can be obtained at what cost/danger.

      As per example, putting greens in warm/dry climates, using Bermuda grass species can maintain very high stemp numbers with minimal cost/danger ratios.

      All to often these types of “blanket” statements regarding golf course maintenance practices are “taken to heart” by a well meaning Greens Committee Chairman (and the like), which can lead to “problems” for the superintendent.

      Maybe Mr. Carney used excerpts from the quoted resources, maybe Mr. Carney did not report “the rest of the story” concerning golf green maintenance to help drive home his point.

      I hope that Mr. Shakeford and the GCSAA are not guilty of making such Blanket Statements.

    • Nick

      May 12, 2014 at 6:39 pm

      This is a fair point. I’d at least like the option though. If you have the money to join a private club, there should be a way to play relatively fast greens. Even if it’s not lightning fast tour speed, your average course’s greens are unbearable for good players. Obviously on a public course, the fees would probably get too high and take business away if everyone was trying to make their greens fast.

    • Evan

      May 28, 2014 at 12:16 pm

      Good point, Larry… most who responded to your comment did not address your content. Just shows how careless and self-centered the modern consumer is. Out of touch with common sense and the realities of the world we live in. Water will indeed be a problem in the future, especially in certain parts of the country/ world. A golf course can be maintained with less water and little to no chemicals… although perfect greens with speeds of 10 stamp will be ill advised.

      If we want to engineer a golf green to perfection, how about we engineer a synthetic green that doesn’t need to be cut and doesn’t require loads of pesticides/ fertilizer/ water to upkeep.

  22. leftright

    May 12, 2014 at 11:43 am

    More BS without getting to the crux of the issue. “Play faster.” My 5some plays every Wed and Sat on a 6600 yard course in 3 hours and 30 minutes…if we are not held up. The greens are a “10” and we do not feel we rush. We have an ex-touring pro, now Champions Tour player who joins us every couple of months and he is not slow. You want to slow down a bit, “Play better.” You suck, play faster. The attitude, I am out for a casual round of golf and I’ll take my time is culturally inept, even at private courses like the one I play on. It’s a mentality and have respect for all players on the course when you play. The PGA tour is responsible for the slow rounds and they should play faster. Their clubs, balls, shoes, bags, apparel and pace of play all filter down to the masses.

    • leftright

      May 12, 2014 at 11:54 am

      The game is in serious jeopardy although. Some idiot on California (figures) wants to ban Titanium drivers because he feels they start forest fires. Some dude wants a 15″ cup for Christ’s sake. Others want to limit technology, others cut the ball distance down. Some people don’t want you to play if you are obese, others do away totally with carts and others measuring devices. The masses have been helped by technology, you think it’s slow now, imagine a 20 handicapper trying to play with 80’s technology. Measuring devices aid the game by someone not having to pace off yardages. Golf as developed into the politics of Washington DC, who says “do as I say, not as I do.” I would quit playing if I had a 15″ cup or green under 7-8 on the stimp or could not ride sometimes and I also feel the game would suffer or go away if these types of changes were implemented.

    • chris

      Jun 1, 2014 at 12:46 am

      right on.. greens being fast doesnt slow you down.. its people that say well i spent my 40$ so ill take 15 min digging in the rough looking for a used top flight ball haha.

  23. Tournound

    May 12, 2014 at 11:40 am

    I understand that research has been done in the aspect of green speeds when it relates to slow play but I think a closer look needs to be take on the length of courses and the amount of land being used to build them. In modern day “American” golf, the use of golf carts is a revenue generator for courses. What better way than to build courses so big with huge gaps between greens and tees which forces the use of carts.

    Notice what it’s like to play an old school course in New England where tees and greens are right next to eachother. The time wasted walking or riding on massive properties isn’t an issue. On top of the fact that when playing smaller, shorter courses it offers a wide arrange of distance opportunities for both skilled and novice players.

    Green speeds are not the issue. And if they are, start practicing your putting and help the golf business by taking a putting lesson with your PGA pro.

    • Bryan

      May 12, 2014 at 8:26 pm

      Its funny that you mention this. My experience has been just the opposite. There is a pretty short course here that is painfully slow, mostly because on every hole, you cant hit a shot until the group ahead is on the green. Its a great course to walk and if its not busy, you can fly around it. The other course is a gigantic 7300 yard links course. It is spread out and you cant hit driver off every tee. Ironically, its one of the best courses to play on weekends when its busy because play moves along briskly. Players hit to an area and there are very few people who have the distance that can bypass a hitting area.

  24. Bruce

    May 12, 2014 at 11:15 am

    On target article.
    Remember, most courses were constructed or rebuilt 20+ years ago when the norm was slower greens. Hence, the green could be sculptured with hills and breaks but the slower speed keeps them puttable and interesting. Now, keep the same sculpture, speed up the greens and they are not puttable by most amateurs or pros – too much roll out for a missed putt.
    Add to the above the problem of high traffic around the hole causing locally uneven areas and you simply cannot putt the green when it is fast: hit a decent pace and miss the hole you have a 6 footer, hit slower pace and watch the ball wander around in the footprints but you only have a 2 footer. Either way adds strokes to play, makes the player tentative, and adds time.

  25. Shawn

    May 12, 2014 at 11:09 am

    I’ve found that when playing a course that has slow greens, which are usually bumpy and the ball doesn’t take the break the way you see it (when putting uphill), the best way to adjust is to try and leave yourself downhill putts whenever possible. They will usually roll true and break as they should. As long as the greens aren’t sloped dramatically, it makes for a more familiar experience.

    • bradford

      May 15, 2014 at 9:27 am

      Interesting strategy, but I’d struggle to overcome golf’s golden rule #1: “Stay Below The Hole.”

  26. Natunited

    May 12, 2014 at 11:07 am

    I find it hard to imagine that green speed is the defining condition that hinders the pace of play. I also find it crazy to me that so many people complain about playing a round of golf in over 3 hours and 45 minutes. Why wouldn’t you want to spend four hours playing a round if golf? Is the company of the three others you choose to play with bad? Not fun enjoying nature? Don’t want to get some fresh air and exercise?
    I think people need to slow down and enjoy the game in all of its aspects.
    The slow play phenomenon I believe comes from everyday golfers that play courses that are to difficult (fast greens fall in this catagory) for them and then proceed to play from the wrong tees. This I believe is in direct correlation to the amount of respect new golfers don’t have for the game.
    Golf is hard!
    The average golfer does not need to play the tips on a course that is 7300 yards and has greens that are 11 or up. Golf is not a chance to measure your member with other guys who play for a living.
    The reason the gents on the PGA play as well as they do is because it has been their job for the majority if their
    life.
    They are better than you! Become okay with that. The author stated the arrival or comment where the person said they slow the greens down for the PGA.
    Guess what? They would beat you every way from Sunday on a course with slower greens or faster green.
    Want to increase pace of play? Start respecting the game but learning how to play to your ability. Be realistic about the courses you can handle. I play off a 1 or scratch handicap but don’t hit it terrible long. I understand that the blue monster would beat the hell out of me and take me 5 hours to play. I am okay with that.
    Time to check some egos and respect how hard golf is.
    Just my few cents.

    • Loopy

      May 12, 2014 at 8:12 pm

      @natunited
      You couldn’t be more wrong. Pace of play has nothing to do with a golfer’s ability. I play off a 7, and my friends play at index 22 and 35, and we all start from the back tee and finish 6800 yards in 3h45 minutes, when nobody is in front. And that’s us taking our time, walking at a leisure pace.
      The difference being, we play ready golf, we don’t look at our yardage book for hours, we don’t try to emulate the pros talking for hours with their caddies before making a shot, we don’t look at the target taking minutes to think, we don’t have annonyinly long shot routine, and we certainly don’t take our sweet bloody time putting.
      And guess what, we are enjoying the round and the weather and the environment, and having fun.
      What isn’t fun is constantly waiting for the group ahead.

      Also there are a bunch of quick golfers on Tour.

  27. David

    May 12, 2014 at 11:03 am

    I agree with many comments that excessive green speed is not necessarily the primary factor in slow play, as I have played far more 4:30+ hour rounds on courses with slower greens. Right off the top of my head, guys need to quit lining up the pen mark on their ball. Ridiculous.

    I do, however, very much agree with the idea that overly fast greens are hurting the average player’s enjoyment of the game. I would always prefer a green to be maintained at a speed appropriate to its design, and most importantly, roll true. For the vast majority of players, greens with a great deal of undulation and/or slope should be maintained at a slower speed. Most players lack the accuracy and distance control required to hit to segments of the greens to give them uphill putts all day, and truthfully should always be aiming for the middle of the green. On very fast green, unfortunately, straight downhill putts then require incredible accuracy and touch, and putts from pin high are often harder than being long or short due to severe breaks.

    I can think of at least three of our local courses here in Chicago that have become FAR less enjoyable over the last few years due to their efforts to increase the speeds on their greens.

    • Bryan

      May 12, 2014 at 8:39 pm

      That was my point exactly. All these wanna be tour pros that think they are putting better on faster greens and not considering that some greens are just not made for that are missing the point. I’d pay money to watch some of these guys commenting hit putts on sloped greens running at a 12 or 13. The sad part is, too many courses feel they need to make them faster because that’s what many people use to evaluate course quality. It does hurt the average golfer and it makes courses much less enjoyable. Nothing like a mid handicapper like me hitting GIR and making bogey because I am not good enough to place my approach shot anywhere but on the center.

  28. TheLegend

    May 10, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    If the green does not roll tru than its not a real green.

  29. Bryan

    May 10, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    I personally agree with the author here. While I certainly don’t think its the only reason for slow play, I do believe it is a big contributor. One of the courses I play frequently has consistently increased the speed of their greens over the last 5-10 years to the point of them being stupid quick for this course. Most of the greens here are steep from back to front and ten years ago, it was a much more fun course to play. Now, no matter where you are on the green, a 3 putt or worse is always a possiblity. A 3 foot putt might move 12″ and if it doesn’t hit the hole, you have a 5 footer coming back. I like courses with fast and true greens as much as the next guy, but unless the greens were built for that, its way too much for average players. Some of my favorite courses to play have slower greens that are anything but flat, but they give you realistic chances of making putts or chipping it close, and I think they are as true as any of the fast green courses if they are maintained properly.

    • Boris

      May 12, 2014 at 12:47 pm

      As is w/many modern “issues” it is a combination of factors. Weekend scrubs taking PGA Tour time over every shot. Dropping bags/cart on wrong side of green. The group not watching tee balls or assisting w/searches.
      The gripes go on and on…green speed is a factor. I love heading to my friends private course and playing on 11-14 greens for three days. It’s thrilling, time-consuming, and exhausting.
      If pace of play kills you and (Where would I rather spend 4-6 hours on a nice day…)you love Augusta-like speed, join a Club and shaddup…

      • Bryan

        May 12, 2014 at 8:13 pm

        Well, since not everybody can be a tour pro like you and be a lights out putter, I guess us common folks are just going to be stuck dealing with it.

  30. Bernard

    May 9, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    Green speed is the last reason golf gets too slow. Foremost is the notion that you can buy your game in a club or ball. $500 bucks on lessons raise one’s game a heck of lot more than any new adjustable driver.

    Also:

    2 guys with 2 beers in a cart is never fast

    Guys staring at a GPS device for every shot is never fast.

    Avoiding putting lines, even though no one wears spikes anymore is not fast.

    Reverential waiting while someone is hitting or putting is not fast.

    I played 13 hole in 2 hrs flat with 2 others today. It was wonderful golf.

    • Loopy

      May 12, 2014 at 8:17 pm

      I played with 2 guys on cart who had a 12 pack of beers. They played at a nice fast pace, and we didn’t had to wait for them. Only thing, they were quite merry at the end lol.

    • bradford

      May 15, 2014 at 9:34 am

      To add to the slow-players mantra:
      Marking Scores at the green instead of the next tee.
      NOT grabbing next club when putting one away.
      NOT lining up putts while others are putting.
      Multiple trips to golf cart.
      Waiting for driver to hit before heading to your own ball.
      Beer. (It’s ok, you can like it…but don’t kid yourself)
      NOT WATCHING WHERE YOUR BALL WENT.

  31. thefullsp

    May 9, 2014 at 9:32 am

    I have played golf for 30 years from the age of 10 in the UK. I can easy walk a round of golf with a carry bag sub-3 hours, as can my buddies. I’ve watched it on tv for just as long. My genuine belief is it is not the speed of the greens that is the issue, but some of the blame falls on the example set to younger and older golfers alike by some of the Tour Pros with the length of time that they take to execute their shots both on the green and from tee to green.

    Also, amateurs read all the instructional articles about looking at putts from all angles and aligning the nice pen-marked strip with the hole (they should align it with the direction they want the ball to travel but I’m happy for my opponent to miss). Then 8 practice stokes. Then some Keegan Bradley ‘give the ball the stink eye’ antics etc. Then some standing there not believing it didn’t drop even though your idea of putting practice is 20 seconds before you run to the tee.

    Unfortunately, we all think we are Tiger and Adam and Blubber and Hunter and Punter. And we are not. And never will be.

    So I’m with Brandt Snedeker as I seem to remember a recent article where he stated that when he was playing with slow guys he will deliberately architect it so that they are in the clock more.

    It’s very, VERY simple.

    Grip it.

    Rip it.

    Spank it.

    Shank it.

    Hit it.

    Quit it.

    But for goodness sake. Just ******* run to your next shot and play when ready.

    I mean… Don’t we all want to get to the 19th hole ASAP to tell everyone how awesome we are.

    Peace Out.

    Sir Shankalot

    • Loopy

      May 12, 2014 at 8:19 pm

      I’m with you mate, these are wise words.

  32. 3sip

    May 8, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    I think an easy way to fix slow play is make double par the maximum score for any hole. When you get double par you move forward a set of tees or move all the way to the front set. When you get a birdie you can move back a set. This would get people to pick up when they should and move forward when they won’t. Plus I think it would be hilarious.

  33. paul

    May 8, 2014 at 12:28 am

    I found it was a lot quicker to play a round of golf when our course mowed the rough a bit shorter on Friday. When you don’t have to spend 5 minutes looking for your ball when you saw it land and roll in the rough it really helps.

  34. tom stickney

    May 7, 2014 at 10:49 pm

    Though I like faster greens personally, I don’t relish the idea of a 4.5+ hour round! I’ll take 9 on the stimp and 3 hour rounds any day

  35. Wes

    May 7, 2014 at 10:19 pm

    Thank you Bob Carney for a thoughtful, well written article.

    It brings up a good question — how do we as a community of golfers address the spectrum of skill level found on any given course.

    I try to do by best as a fellow sportsman to be courteous and patient playing the game with variety of different skilled players.
    But I can also see the frustrations at either end of the spectrum.

  36. Pumper

    May 7, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    Think the basic message is you either have fast greens that are relatively flat or slower greens with more undulations. The argument being flat greens take away creativity.

    The Pros don’t help marking balls that a 6 inches away to re-align their personal marking on the ball then looking at it from every angle imaginable…then it becomes the norm.

  37. GJR

    May 7, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    We’re still missing the boat. Green speeds have nothing to do with pace of play. People adjust. One way or another, they adjust. It’s the 9 strokes it took to get to the green. And the 16 practice swings before each shot. Then looking at the putt for 2 minutes before missing it by 3 feet. You know a great way to fix this? Have the pros film a series of funny PSA’s about the difference between them and weekend warrior. It can be done tongue-in-cheek with the underlying tone that they take their time because money and ranking is on the line. It matters. 8 beers in on the 4th hole with your buddies? Get moving!

    It’s also way too expensive for your average person. Go to the census.gov and look at median household average income. My state, for example, is Minnesota. Average income is $59,000. Add in a mortgage/rent, food, utilities, maybe some credit card debt and where do they find $55 to play a round of golf on Saturday morning twice a month? Plus if they have kids? Forget about it. A great way to fix it? Instead of trying to make money on margin, make it on quantity. Say you get on a good day, at most courses, 45 tee times booked over the course of a day with a foursome every time @$55 each. That’s roughly $10,000 in revenue. If you dropped the price to $45 and got 15 more tee times throughout the day that another $1,000 in revenue. Everyone wins, right?

    Then they turn on the TV, and if they have cable, they get commercials telling them their equipment is old and the new set of ‘insert brand here’ will help them hit the ball further than ever before. The best fix for this is to sell the older equipment at a deeply discounted price so people can upgrade in increments. Your irons were bought back in 1995? This set of ‘insert brand here’ are from 2008, but, they are better than what you have now and will only cost a fraction of the shiny stuff over there.

    And don’t even get me started on the rules of which some are the most silly and counter-intuitive I’ve ever heard. For example: You hit a fairway with a great shot, but some jackwagon in front of you didn’t replace the divot. Nope, you absolutely cannot move that ball 2 inches for the good lie you deserve. Don’t even dream it.

    I love this game and I just got introduced to it a few years ago. This sport can be ‘fixed’ if a few people will be willing to lead the charge. Allow and empower marshalls to speed slow players up. Find ways to make the greens fees and power cart rental cheaper. Stop peddling equipment BS and make it more affordable.

  38. Brian

    May 7, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    Blaming slow play on the course is a cop out. Blame the Pros on TV who take 6 hours to play and take forever to hit a shot and back off 3 times and read a putt from every angle imaginable. Look at the amateurs nowadays following the lead of those pros. Slow play isn’t a problem anymore – it’s the norm. You want to speed up play, speed up the spokespeople. Hold them to a higher standard. If you build it, they will come.

  39. Dan

    May 7, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    sounds like an article from a groudskeeper who does not play golf every week and experience the frustration of putting bad greens. Ususally slow greens are in bad shape, bounce everywhere, and can be very inconsistent with their speeds. This very thing caused me to leave a club I had been at for many years to join a club with more consistent greens. The problem here is not the speed, we can all adjust to slow greens if they are healthy and roll consistent. Consistent speed/roll of greens will result in faster play. Balls bounce around less and golfers can find a groove or some momentum instead of a putt bounceing around and coming up way short. The average golfer might think he did something wrong, when in fact, it was the bad green.
    Fast greens are usually healthy and roll pure. Find me pure greens that roll at a 9, I’ll be just fine with that everyday!

  40. PBGS

    May 7, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    Just putt better.

  41. Ponjo

    May 7, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    I blame Taylor Made for slow play, as people think they can hit everything sooooooo much further 🙂

  42. Evan

    May 7, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    Excellent article and topic, Bob.

  43. christian

    May 7, 2014 at 11:42 am

    I pesonally putt much better on fast greens, it suites me somehow.
    Plus, if slick greens are so common these days wouldn’t people be very much used to it by now to the point that it would have become a non-issue? And so not cause slow play at all?

  44. Ben

    May 7, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Fast greens are better in every way. I am not talking Augusta fast but at least 10 on stimp. Putts roll true. You can make more putts. Slow greens make it difficult to make putts, ball bounces, breaks are strange, and ball doesn’t have a true roll.

    I’d prefer golf courses in regards to golf course maintenance start with greens as #1 priority. Order of importance in maintaining course: greens, green side bunkers, tee boxes, fairways, fairway bunkers.

    • Mike

      May 7, 2014 at 10:58 am

      I dunno about this. Have you watched Master’s highlights from the 80s? Those greens were slow yet putts were made…

    • Donnie

      May 12, 2014 at 4:08 pm

      Not when the greens were not designed to be fast by the original architect.

  45. Robert

    May 7, 2014 at 10:37 am

    The comments on here are so delusional. You have problems with people taking long on par 5’s? That’s 5 minutes on one hole. Waiting on every player in the group to finish out putting at least twice is 5 minutes ON EVERY HOLE. How you don’t understand that is beyond me. You all are acting as if he is trying to take away your souls with this article. If you actually read the whole thing instead of panicking and making a comment, it does say at the end:

    “The saddest part of all this?” Shackelford says. “Good players struggle on slow greens. So the more courses speed things up, the more it hurts the average golfers and helps the elite player. What a needless mess!”

    And every one of you has proven that point by saying it isn’t the problem. It IS the problem, but you don’t want to face it. I like fast greens, but I’m willing to have them a little bit slower in order to help out everyone. What is wrong with that? Am I not selfish enough?

    There is a line to it, and it’s easy to make. Make the courses at most a 10. Save time, save money, save sanity.

    • Ben

      May 7, 2014 at 10:49 am

      Most of average golfers I have played with prefer faster greens. Most public tracks are running 7, 8, and 9.

    • Nodaklefty

      May 7, 2014 at 4:07 pm

      This response hits the nail on the head. I can honestly say that I’ve been reformed on this issue. A few years ago the superintendent took me out before a big tournament…he had sped the greens up. But on this day this public course was getting it’s normal play and we just sat on his cart and watched. Golfer after golfer would putt 4 or 5 feet past a hole or leave it dreadfully short. All taking more time with each group as we watched. Of course the next day the all the good players in town loved the greens for the tournament, but the reality was they wouldn’t have loved playing behind these groups the previous day during a regular round.

      • JC

        May 7, 2014 at 4:37 pm

        Correct – and when foursome after foursome (sometimes hackers, sometimes not) put three or four times instead of two or three, the short-cut grass greens get 33% or 25% more wear and tear – day in and day out.

  46. jmichael204

    May 7, 2014 at 9:52 am

    I am a scratch golfer and my dad is a 30 Handicap.. He understands proper etiquette and we can play a round together in 2 hours with a power cart (no waiting). You can still go and enjoy yourself no matter what your “cap” is.. People need to understand the type of play that day. If it’s a weekend round then the course is most likely packed and you need to play more “ready golf”. If the course is empty that day then by all means play at your own pace.. People are soo worried to let someone “play through” I can tell you I never hesitate to let a faster group play ahead of me, it only takes 5 mins anyway out of your round.

  47. Mike

    May 7, 2014 at 9:49 am

    Having played golf a few times in Ireland/England on some of the worlds top rated courses, I agree with the above. The greens weren’t perfectly manicured or running at 11 but you still got a very true roll. At the end of the day I didn’t feel like I was “robbed” because the greens weren’t silly fast.

    It can be done and European golf sort of proves this.

  48. bradford

    May 7, 2014 at 9:40 am

    No offense, but all this article says to me is “Please help me legitimize extending my profit margin.” “9 is fine”, sure, but 6? 8? not so much. This is no longer 1935, and I’d like my ball to roll straight. The courses will ABSOLUTELY NOT lower their price when they let the greens go.

    To call into “evidence” public courses that roll 11, 12, 13 is ridiculous as well. Those are precious few, and with costs the “average” or beginner simply won’t pay.

    • Evan

      May 7, 2014 at 12:31 pm

      If you want your ball to roll straight, you shouldn’t play golf. Golf is played in nature, in no way should grass covered greens alway be perfect… more reason to let them grow longer and healthier at a lower cost. You should play golf on a simulator or artificial greens made of plastic to get your “straight” roll.

      • bradford

        May 7, 2014 at 2:50 pm

        No thank you to your simulator, and thank you for focusing on one single word in my response. I should have used the word “true”. And you’re dead wrong, greens should be perfect in every way possible.

        • Evan

          May 8, 2014 at 9:18 am

          No, I’m not wrong… and you are delusional. Greens are made of grass, they should not be perfect 100% of the time… and that does not happen, even at the most elite courses. If you spend a fortune on chemicals and labor you get close, but this is neither healthy nor possible for all golf courses. This will also not be sustainable in the future. This type of maintenance requires more water and chemicals. These will be hot button issues in the near future… issues that golf will not be able to ignore. Water and chemical use WILL be regulated, I guarantee you that… get use to slower greens.

          • bradford

            May 8, 2014 at 1:20 pm

            Again, no thanks. You ignore the fact that there are two groups of superintendent mentalities here. One group chooses to be sustainable and eco-responsible, and the other will sell you the worst product possible for the highest price. The sustainable and eco-responsible type will continue to use newer and better technology to provide a high quality product. The lazy, or uninformed will hide behind a wall of regulations to make excuses for a poorly maintained course.

  49. TheCityGame

    May 7, 2014 at 9:10 am

    OK, you might have inadvertently opened the comment section up to everyone giving their pet theory about what causes slow play. If you spend any time in the forums, you know that’s a mistake.

    In terms of fast greens. . .you’re basically spot on. I play a nice private course every now and then where the members get a perverse pleasure from how fast their greens are. Problem is, the course was designed in the 1920’s when greens weren’t cut as short. They are beautiful green complexes and the speed of the greens has basically ruined any of the enjoyment of playing them. Some examples. . .

    1) There are several locations where you can putt the ball up to the hole, and if it doesn’t find some minor depression, or longer tuft of grass, it will stop and roll back 10-12 feet.

    2) There is one green where if the pin is on a front tier and you’re behind the green, you have to putt the ball into the rough next to the tier, then chip on sideways. If you place a ball on the slope and let it go, it will roll off the front of the green, and be 30 yards off the green.

    3) There are many other places where a down hill putt is a little too fast, and rolls off the front of the green, 30-40 yards down a slope. This happens 3-4 times PER ROUND.

    4) I was there one day where they had the course open to visitors from other courses with the same architect. The guys in the locker room were from a nice private course from another state. They were saying the greens were rolling at 14.

    5) Everyone gives everything inside of 3 feet, which is totally annoying if you’re used to putting out.

    It’s a real shame because in the spring, when they keep them a little longer, they’re some of the most fun greens out there. They’re just not designed to be cut to concrete speeds.

    • Nodaklefty

      May 7, 2014 at 4:13 pm

      That’s the sad thing is that you speed greens up so much that superintendents only have so many choices to put the pin locations for greens that are rolling 11-12+ on the stimp. If a golfer begins to wonder why certain greens begin to wear the way they do…that often is the answer.

  50. Jake Anderson

    May 7, 2014 at 4:16 am

    Fast greens are awesome. End of story.

  51. Vin

    May 7, 2014 at 2:13 am

    From the bottom of the world I agree. I am a fully qualified golfcourse greenkeeper and for the past 10 years I have been a director of a US EPA equivalent. I have also played golf for the past 30 years on single figures. Green speeds are crazy! I want to enjoy this game and I don’t want a 5 hour round. The best rounds at the club, on average, is shortly after coring where they are heavily sanded and slow but running true. They are also the fastest rounds as well. Whilst I don’t support greens running at 5 (on the stint meter) I would support 8 or 9. On the chemical front between fungicides, fertilizers and herbicides the average course could save a fortune. I also live in a water short area – the shorter you cut grass the more water you need – stress leads to death. It is about time that we get real. Fewer courses maintained for the masses can only make sense.

  52. t

    May 7, 2014 at 2:05 am

    This is all false. Slow play is caused by longer golf courses, longer golf clubs, balls that spin less, club heads that spin the ball less, etiquette, bad golfers, heavy rough, the beverage cart, looking for lost golf balls, thinking you have five minutes to look for a golf ball, long walks from green to tee.

    • U

      May 7, 2014 at 8:00 am

      “thinking you have 5 minutes to look for EACH lost ball AND not letting the group behind play through kindly” is what you meant to say, I believe.

  53. markb

    May 7, 2014 at 1:44 am

    I don’t agree with the premise that fast greens = slow golf, but I do agree that the lower mowing heights employed on modern greens have rendered entire areas of older designs unusable. My home course is a Billy Bell design that has not altered its green shapes since the 60’s. Our greens have many steep slopes, chutes, humps and fronts. The same pro has been there the entire time. He laments the fact that many plateaus and corners are unusable these days because balls won’t hold or will rollback at you if you don’t hit the cup. As a result, we seem to default to 4 or 5 stock locations per hole and never see any different looks.

  54. MHendon

    May 7, 2014 at 12:32 am

    There are many reasons for slow play but mostly its high handicappers taking twice as many and more strokes to complete a hole. Bottom line golf isn’t racing, it’s not track, football, basketball, or even tennis. It’s supposed to be a fun and relaxing game so why is everyone always in such a hurry. How about on a slow day just taking the time to appreciate what a beautiful day it is and how lucky you are to be in the great outdoors playing this wonderful game. Many people in this world don’t have such a luxury!

    • timbleking

      May 7, 2014 at 1:36 am

      It’s not really a matter of being in a hurry. It’s more a matter of rythm anyone needs to perform on a golf course. Should you have to wait at every hole the flight in front taking its 10 strokes to reach the green then 5 putts to sank the ball in, I can tell you that the game of golf is not of any fun.

    • Alex

      May 7, 2014 at 2:05 am

      last tournament round took me 5:30 because one guy in my flight was so damn slow in everything he did. And he is only 23 with a handicap of 21. That was no fun at all…

    • J Duf

      May 7, 2014 at 9:46 am

      not when you leave your wife at home with a 2 yr old every Saturday morning. playing in less than 4 hours is crucial for me and alot of the guys in their 30’s at my club. Its not a matter of having a nagging wife as it is not being an a-hole of a father/husband. I cant expect her to be ok with me leaving the house for 6 hours every weekend while she chases my kid around.

      I think alot of people on here with younger children are in the same boat and to be honest, i think the 4.5-5 hour rounds are the reason that less people play simply because consistently spending that much time away from your family is not feasible

      • twalk

        May 7, 2014 at 10:44 pm

        Same here. I cannot justify giving away 6 hours of time to play on weekends. Because of this i only play golf on the weekends if it is a captains choice or tournament like member guest.

      • paul

        May 7, 2014 at 11:41 pm

        Same here

      • labillyboy

        May 21, 2014 at 6:43 pm

        Green speeds don’t seem to make that big of difference to me. I am happy on anything from 6 on up. Just watch the old black and white film of Hogan, Nicklaus, Palmer in the 50’s and 60’s… those greens weren’t over 6… they were smacking their putts. Much better than watching the current tour where they barely touch the ball with their putters and it goes 30 feet… It’s fun pulling out the old 8802 and smacking some putts on furry greens.

        I really don’t enjoy rounds of golf that are less than 41/2 hours and prefer a pace around 5 hours. I just hate playing with people who are in a hurry, hit out of turn, take gimmies, stand in peoples lines, rush from shot to shot, don’t converse, hit into the group in front of them, yell, complain about pace of play, etc. Their stress level increases anytime they have to wait, it’s nuts. I will not play with one individual who always jumps the tee and then starts walking immediately after hitting his shot, before the next players have hit, very anti-social and he cheats too.

        I don’t like standing on a tee box waiting any more than anyone else, but I do understand there are reasons this happens, lost ball, bad shot, difficult condition, etc… things happen. Enjoy having a conversation, have a drink, chip a couple if you are that nervous. Don’t be the idiot yelling “come on” or “hurry up”…

        If you understand how a golf course flows, you’d know that every group playing at 4 hours is unlikely, that’s 13 minutes a hole. 15 minutes a hole equals 41/2 hours which is a comfortable pace if everything goes perfectly for a foursome of good players.

        If you don’t have more than 5 hours, then you can always quit after 12 or 13 holes or just play 9. If you don’t have the time, take up tennis, that’s what I play if I don’t have 6-7 hours free.

    • MHendon

      May 7, 2014 at 2:29 pm

      All perfectly understandable points and I can completely relate. For me I found my optimum pace to be right at 3 hours. However I also discovered that being in a hurry was really only hurting me and making my round less enjoyable. It’s definitely frustrating watching someone hack it up in front of you but there’s nothing you can do about that, they paid for the round same as you. If you want to play faster I’ve found it’s best to play later in the day on the weekend not at the prime time hours between 8am to 1pm or during the week. If your going to play on the weekend during those prime time hours then don’t unless you’re prepared to put in a 6 or so hour round.

  55. Mike

    May 7, 2014 at 12:02 am

    The day courses realize they don’t have to put the back tee markers on the back tee box for non – tourney days is the day pace of play improves exponentially. Quit telling people to tee it forward, make them.

    • mitch

      May 7, 2014 at 1:23 am

      course difficulty has little to do with pace of play. people have lost all common sense when playing golf. example, not helping your partner with yardages, not carrying an extra ball, tees or clubs for your shots totally kills pace of play. if the entire group of play 1 minute faster, average of 15 seconds faster per shot, you should be able to finish a round of golf in under 4.5 hours on ANY COURSE.

  56. Paul

    May 6, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    He’s being conservative, especially for amateurs struggling with speeds of 11 to 13. I can still remember the day we played the stroke-play club championship qualifier on surfaces running between 12 and 13. It took an hour longer than our usual rounds on greens of 9 or 10.
    Read more at http://www.golfwrx.com/208183/our-games-obsession-with-fast-greens-is-killing-us/#c7KOzy4hvrCoCBml.99
    Are you serious with this example. Our cc takes at least an hour longer then regular, hour and a half final day. Terrible example and terrible article (honestly, no offence). I would say the problem lies with regular people taking wayyyyyy too long to read putts. Walking around the hole, looking for different angles, confusing themselves. Some of the best putters I have played with looked from behind and pulled the trigger, some of the worst have looked from everywhere. Just my opinion

  57. Don

    May 6, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    Most (all?) of the commenters are missing the cost/fragility side of the question. Also, most of the commenters are in the top 10% of players. Bogey golfers do in fact slow down a lot when greens are fast. They can’t chip on them, and can’t lag putt on them. Yeah, they might make other mistakes on the way to the green, but fast greens magnify the problem.

    • Philip

      May 6, 2014 at 10:37 pm

      No I get the cost/fragility issues as my course is almost 100% chemical free and faster greens do burn out faster. I guess I’m concerned with where do we draw the line. Where do the golfers who enjoy faster greens play if courses slow their greens down. Courses may not end up with more business if they encourage more golfers that are not really ready to play on that level of course.

      My course actually starts with slower greens for May (the rain helps), turn it up a bit sometime between June/July and then crank it another couple of degrees for the junior championship and our club championship near the end of the season. It’s not a bad compromise as the greens are very undulating and even when slow are tricky.

  58. Pingback: Might Inconsistent Greens Lead To A March PLAYERS Once more? - GeoffShackelford.com, With GolfDigest.com - All About Sports

  59. Philip

    May 6, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    I disagree – I love fast greens as I could never putt on slow greens and everyone at my course loves the undulating fast greens too. A big fun part of golf is the never ending challenge.

    Now some weekend hackers waiting for the green to clear because they once in their lifetime bombed their 3 wood 250 yards (and likely off the tee not the fairway) can bring an entire day of golfing for everyone to a standstill. This is my biggest gripe on the pace of play.

  60. J Grant

    May 6, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    Another excuse for GCSAA. Green speeds have very little to do with slow play. High handicappers playing blue tees and acting like tour players. Why should we pay high fees for slow greens and long fairways??? So the super can keep his job?? Biggest hoax in golf was removing metal spikes(GCSAA)

  61. Don

    May 6, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    I won’t generalize like most of the commentators above as I can only speak to what I see in my area. The greens are not crazy here, but I have no idea what they stimp out at. But what I do see slowing down play are 1) people taking 5 minutes to eyeball a putt they end up missing by 10 feet (you are not Villegas, get up and putt), 2) looking for a lost ball for 10+ minutes when you know it went 100yds deep in the woods, and 3) waiting for a playing partner to take 10 practice swings before he hits the ball and then taking 10 practice swings of your own. Unless you are playing for real “pay your bills” money, get on with it.
    A few ideas on how to speed up the game:
    1) get marshalls that actually do something, like control pace of play
    2) more Par 60/par 3 courses for newbies, and make them stay there until they have an established handicap < 18.
    3) limit it to 2-somes. When I play with 1 other guy, we get around in under 3 hours if there is no one ahead of us.
    4) ready golf doesn't mean when you are ready
    5) limit scores to a set level for non competitive rounds (ie 8 for par 4&5's, 6 for par 3's)
    6) finally, shorten courses. Tiger and Bubba can hit it 300 all day. Bubba joe cannot. Cap course length at something reasonable. Short can be challenging, no need to make every course 7200yds. And Tee it up is fine, but golfers will not do it unless the courses move it for them. Course managers should just swap white for blue, red for white etc.

    • Philip

      May 6, 2014 at 9:29 pm

      Agree with all the above

    • ChrisG

      May 7, 2014 at 8:43 am

      I agree with some of your points, but mandating that golfers with >18 handicap stay on Par 3 courses is an insult. I have no idea what my hcp is, and frankly don’t care. I play for fun and enjoyment when time allows. Playing my best, I can shoot around 90, at my worst, 110. I am sure I have a high hcp, but would not play the game if I were forced to play par 3 courses. The thing is, I do not play slow golf. My scores are high because my short game is lousy, partly because I play fast to keep people behind me happy.

    • Ochowie

      May 29, 2014 at 4:36 pm

      Your suggestion #1 is the most important one. I can’t remember how many times I’ve been three groups deep on a Par 3 and the marshal comes along and throws his hands up and goes “Welp, it’s just a slow day”. It’s his job to prevent that kind of thing from happening. I think also a point is that some greedy golf courses try to pack in the tee times and don’t leave enough space in between groups.

      I was playing at a course in Baltimore once with one other guy and the marshall/starter sent out a foursome in front of my two some because “they were scratch golfers and played fast”. Those scratch golfers proceeded to dribble their tee shots of the back tees and the marshall still wouldn’t do anything.

  62. Jeff

    May 6, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    This is the most ridiculous excuse I’ve ever heard for slow play. My regular course MIGHT roll at 9 on a good day. The problem, as stated above, is the weekend hack that thinks he has to wait on a par 5 from 285 out….75 yards longer than they hit [their second] tee shot.

    And rangers do NOT do their job. Our rangers are apparently their only for the free golf and don’t even THINK about telling a group to speed up or skip a hole.

    It’s going to get worse before it gets worse.

    • JC

      May 7, 2014 at 4:57 pm

      I have often thought that a good “marshal/ranger” practice would be to hang out at par fives, tell the group to hit that second shot, and the marshal will take responsibility for the mad players on the green if it hits into the green. I might hit a second shot to the green on a par five 10% of the time, so unless I am laying up, I am waiting for them to clear. If a marshal told each group that he was going to have the next group hit, players would put out faster, second shots would get down the fairway faster, and play on four holes would speed up by quite a bit.

    • steve

      May 8, 2014 at 8:49 pm

      YES YES YES! 99.9% of rangers are NOT doing their job.

  63. Jonathan

    May 6, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    I disagree. I think it is equipment. How many times do you see a mid-to-high capper waiting 250 yds out because that “one time,” he hit a 3-wood 250 yds and reached a par 5 in two? 10-15 years ago, that same golfer would never think to go for the green in two because he couldn’t get there, regardless of how well he struck the ball.

    With the advances in equipment, average golfers will occasionally have that 275 yd drive or bombed 3-wood. Knowing that they COULD get there (even if unlikely) and hit into the players in front of them causes them to wait. This, in turn, causes significant delays.

  64. MM

    May 6, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    I agree with Bob’s article in all aspects. As a long-time PGA member, I believe it is sad that so many great imaginative green designs now result in the only usable hole locations being the flattest areas on the greens…day after day, thereby creating more wear and tear to those portions of the greens. The very best players in the world have adapted with the use of 61-64 deg. wedges; and this has also kept lots of golf course re-designers busy, but it has definitely slowed the game down and has resulted in large areas of many greens becoming unusable for hole locations. Most green speeds would do well to never exceed a 10 reading on the Stimpmeter, but the better thing would be for all courses to only use it to maintain some degree of consistency from green to green, which was the original intent of the creation of this tool. Also, the USGA doesn’t do the game any favors on this topic, as it encourages green committees and superintendents alike to reduce green speeds for turf health and playability, yet they create virtually unplayable speeds for their featured US Open.
    The other issue at stake would be to bring in the distance the ball travels, so that we can all get back to reality regarding unreasonably long holes and courses, and the resulting expense associated with maintaining these courses. If some common sense would prevail, the results would be lower expense for everyone, better pace of play, more enjoyment, many more creative/available hole locations, and far less stress on turf, (not to mention on players, on superintendents and golf professionals, too)!
    The game was much more enjoyable when slopes on greens were in play, and you could putt and chip aggressively on occasion. Sadly, I doubt that very many leaders of the game will ever listen, as the Augusta/Oakmont effect on the very expensive quest for speed and perfection has permeated so much of today’s game.

  65. David

    May 6, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    I like fast greens. It’s the main reason I chose my club. To each their own.

  66. Jim

    May 6, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    I disagree i feel that the newer courses have long forced carries that some people just cant carry. I also feel that the average joe that tops the ball 6 or 8 times then hits a good one then repeats as necessary until his 130 strokes are complete on 18 probably has 36-45 puts so more time is wasted getting to the green and finding that lost pro v in the woods on every other hole than those putts. I feel that the tee it forward is a great idea if only people would actually try it once or twice . Dont punish yourself this game is supposed to be challenging and FUN .

  67. DaveMac

    May 6, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    I totally agree with this:

    I really wish the R&A and USGA would put an official upper limit on green speed, perhaps as low as 11. This would narrow the gap between elite tour courses and normal courses, it would speed up the professional game, which would help to speed up the amateur game. You might even see a professional tapping in without marking and cleaning the ball!

    This year’s masters was ruined as a spectacle because the greens, particularly on the first few holes of the final round, were ridiculously quick. The chasing pack quickly got frightened off trying to chase the leaders, resulting in a boring masters.

    So you have my vote for 9 is fine.

  68. DB

    May 6, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    Completely agree with this:

    “Plus, there’s the complete lack of fun in modern greens, which have to be built flatter for this silly pursuit of marble-like surfaces.”

    Everyone wants ultra-fast greens. Then everybody starts complaining about the greens that are undulating and multi-tiered because they are now “impossible”. What they are forgetting is that those greens were FUN when they stimped at 9.

  69. The dude

    May 6, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    King for a day…..NO marking your putts…putt out..go to next hole if you miss #2….guarantee to append up play.

  70. Van

    May 6, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    I agree…somewhat. Really fast greens can lead to increases in round times. I don’t mind playing slower greens. As long as the greens are consistent in speed. I do agree with the author in that increased green speeds mean increased costs. And guess who ends up paying that. Consistency in speed should be the goal, while keeping in mind costs for the consumers.

  71. EF

    May 6, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    This is all just another red herring in the smoke and mirrors that is the “downfall” of golf. I see, let’s make everybody play from tees that are 3500 yards long, hit to a 6 foot wide cup cut in the middle of greens that roll at 0.5 on the stimpmeter. And of course the round can’t take more than 1 hour and 23 minutes total, or else it was a total waste. Basically, let’s take the game as we know it and throw it in the trash can all so golf course developers can get paid a steady 10% increase in profits each year. Has anyone ever considering that maybe the game wasn’t intended to “grow” by an easily/readily defined amount each year? Maybe it truly was just a bunch of guys in a field in Scotland who wanted to wack a ball around for fun with their buddies. And maybe it was only when it became a big business that people got really worried about its “growth.” You know, bocce ball is pretty fun, but you don’t see people clamoring on about how to grow it into a mega industry where there’s a bocce ball court on every street corner and people buy $800 “tour issue” bocce balls. Why does it have to grow? Why can’t it stay the same? Who really benefits other than new golf course developers? Wouldn’t all of the slow play issues be cured by retraction in interest instead of growth? Seems to me that courses would clear right up. You’ll still have all the same real players, real fans, real equipment companies, real courses, etc. that have all existed dating back up to hundreds of years.

    And on specific point to this article, let’s also please try to understand the stimpmeter readings before we get every head pro in ‘Murica all worked up over the greens being too fast. Given that the average course probably rolls about 7 – which is equally hard to put as a 10.5 given how horribly inconsistent it is – I think we should take a good look at our speed analysis. I love reading comments like this where someone posts about playing on greens that were “like 12 to 13 man.” Give me a freaking break. The PGA probably plays on greens in the 12 to 13 range twice per year – the masters and the US Open. I don’t care what you think, I don’t care who told you what, the greens in your club championship weren’t 13 (caveat unless your home course is Oakmont, then maybe they were if it was a little dry).

    • Paul

      May 6, 2014 at 9:42 pm

      agree 100%, people exaggerate, its in our nature. No way the average course is what this article states it is, and it too, in general, is an exaggeration

    • Steff

      May 7, 2014 at 9:04 am

      EF for president! 100% agree!

    • J Duf

      May 7, 2014 at 10:24 am

      Nailed it dude.

      This is just another dumb “i have the solution to slow play” article. Greens are too fast? Dont hit your putts as hard

    • JTW

      May 13, 2014 at 9:50 pm

      Ef has nailed this one. How many times have we played a really nice championship course with some guy out there with 3 grand worth of equipment taking 12 on hole after hole. The reason for slow play is there are a bunch of really bad golfers out there trying to hit 300 like bubba did on TV. There is a forum were they all hang out called the hacker paradise. Why does golf need to grow again?

  72. Mat

    May 6, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    All I can do is say yes, yes, and more yes.

  73. Pooch

    May 6, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    I agree with Kyle above. It is the 7 plus strokes it takes to get to the green. Slow play is caused by more reasons that fast greens.Bad golfers that think they are better than they are.Nobody prepares for their shot. A simple plan would be to teach people “Ready Golf” Golfers that take 27 practice strokes, Paralysis by analysis. Too much talking.

  74. GK

    May 6, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    Disagree.

    It’s the stupidly undulated greens with rolling humps and valleys with multi-tier built against the slope of the hilly terrain with unbelievably stupid false edges that are inconceivably punishing with blind drop offs, that is ruining the game. It’s not some amusement park with roller coasters!

    Stimp of 13 is fine on flatter greens and courses (think the Old Course). At least then you would have the chance of seeing and judging the roll-out better.

  75. Steff

    May 6, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    Disagree as well. The greens make the course. I would say slow and uneven greens destroy the game of golf. I don’t even think its fun to play at my club anymore because of the slow and uneven greens when I know they can be fantastic if they just want them to be.

  76. Ant Lockyer

    May 6, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    Very much disagree. Play on super quick, firm and perfectly true greens and manage to get round in a competition in under 3:30. People and TV are the issue. there was a kid at the junior roll up lessons the other day he looked at the hole and back to the ball 12 times on every putt. Where did he get that from?

    • Paul

      May 6, 2014 at 9:49 pm

      Could not have said it better. People thinking they are pros is the issue. People are going to take too much time reading putts if the greens are at 9 or 13, doesnt matter

  77. Mike

    May 6, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    I actually really agree with this. I don’t normally advocate for green changes, but as a fairly good putter, I find it MORE enjoyable with slow greens as I feel there is more fun in how you want to approach the putt; the other part is that it DOES slow down the game a ton as I watch my playing partners 3 putt often or leave a 3 footer short since the fast greens give them the “yips”. It takes FOREVER to play a round.

    Lastly, my local course has quick greens and the pins placements are borderline, if not, illegal. There should be a flat surface around the hole instead its on a slope…these are frustrating things to play with.

    Good article, good points that I wasn’t thinking of.

    • Steff

      May 6, 2014 at 4:45 pm

      it sounds like its the guy who sets the pins you should talk to not the speed.

    • MJ

      May 6, 2014 at 9:16 pm

      You must play at my course.

    • Paul

      May 6, 2014 at 9:51 pm

      oh ya, hitting putts on slow greens is wayyyyyy more fun then rolling them on fast greens (sarcasm)

    • Mike

      May 7, 2014 at 4:17 pm

      We have a group of 30+ guys that play different course every Sunday. One of the courses moved the whites tees to 6,700 yds. Two par 3s are over 200 yds. and the other two play between 160 & 180. Pins were always borderline illegal. It would take us about an hour longer to play that course than any of the others. Our organizer banned them from our rotation (a former PGA pro)and explained why. The current pro said that’s what people want not 340 yd par 4s or par 5s less than 500 yds. Well he’s wrong!

      • christian

        May 10, 2014 at 12:33 pm

        Why don’t you and your gang just move up to the forward tees on those extra long courses? Manliness issues?

  78. Kyle

    May 6, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    Disagree. Most people can at the very least 3 putt regardless of green speed. It’s the 7 strokes it takes them to get to the green that slow everything down. When greens aren’t in good shape, you can make a good stroke and have it hit bumps and not do what it should and it makes it more frustrating. I don’t play courses with greens in bad shape.

    • Paul

      May 6, 2014 at 9:55 pm

      exactly, you have to hit the putt instead of rolling it. this article is terrible (no offence author, but it is)

  79. Martin

    May 6, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    I completely agree.

    I am a pretty good putter, but just don’t enjoy the game when the greens get stupid fast. Our course which has beautiful and fast greens, lost 8 of them over the 2013 winter, cost the course owners a fortune and we lost a month and a half of a 5 month season.

    9-10 is plenty quick for me (our course is kept at 11.5).

    • Paul

      May 6, 2014 at 9:57 pm

      2013 winter was one of the worst. Probably not because of the fast greens but the type of grass. Where are you from and what grass? otherwise this is nonsense

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Opinion & Analysis

College golf recruiting: The system works

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Yesterday, one of the parents I consult with on college placement asked me what the lessons are from the recent college admissions scandal for her and her son. What are the takeaways?

Michael Young, who coined the phrase in 1956, writes, a meritocracy is “the society in which the gifted, the smart, the energetic, the ambitious and the ruthless are carefully sifted out and helped towards their destined positions of dominance.” For decades higher education has embraced the meritocracy, creating an effective system which it funnels students with amazing precision to school that matches their academic ability, courtesy of indicators like GPA, SAT and class rank. So why would people work to circumvent this system? Ignorance and entitlement; the members of this scandal were driven by having the right brand name to tell their friends at dinner parties, not the welfare of their children.

In my own experience, I have seen families put their kids into months of hardcore standardized prep, while signing up for six to eight sittings of the SAT under the guise of trying to get to a better school, all while balancing practice and tournament golf. The problem is that this does not make you a good parent, it makes you an asshole.

In my own examination of data in the college signing process over the past three years, I have found only three outliers in Division One Men’s Golf at major conference schools. Each of these outliers had a NJGS ranking outside of the top 1000 in their class with scoring differentials above 3.5. They also each had a direct and obvious connection with the school. They leveraged the relationship and had their children admitted and put on the roster. Success! Unfortunately, none of the players appeared on the roster their sophomore year. Why? By the numbers, these players are 6 shots worst than their peers. That’s 24 shots over a four-round qualifier.

Obviously, it needs to be said again; the best junior players (boys and girls) are excellent. Three years of data suggest that players who attend major conference schools have negative scoring differentials close to 2. This means that they average about 2 shots better than the course rating, or in lay terms; have a plus handicap in tournaments. This is outstanding golf and a result of a well thought out and funded plan, executed over several years.

There is no doubt that the best players have passed through top tier programs in recent years, however, they have entered these programs with accolades including negative scoring differentials and successful tournament careers, including a pattern of winning. In order to compete at the professional level, players must meticulously try and mirror these successes in college. The best way to do it? Attend a school where the prospective student-athlete can gain valuable experience playing and building their resume. For a lot of junior golfers, this might not be the most obvious choice. Instead, the process takes some thought and looking at different options. As someone who has visited over 800 campuses and seen the golf facilities, I can say that you will be surprised and impressed with just how good the options are! Happy searching.

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: World Long Drive Champ Maurice Allen

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In this episode of the Gear Dive brought to you by Fujikura Golf, Johnny chats with Remax World Long Drive Champion Maurice Allen on where he started, his crazy equipment specs and why he relies on his eyes over the numbers.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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Opinion & Analysis

This could be Rickie Fowler’s year to get the major monkey off his back

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When Rickie Fowler first emerged on Tour, he was supposed to take the game by storm. The golf media raved about his talent and ramped up the potential of a “big two” that included him and Rory McIlroy. Fowler and McIlroy were supposed to compete as the sole forces in golf, like the Tiger and Phil of a new generation.

However, golf never goes according to a script, and it particularly hasn’t for Rickie Fowler. At age 30, and without a major, momentum has slowed behind Fowler despite him having five PGA Tour and two European Tour victories on his resume. Commentators, who were once sure that Fowler would be a golfing great, now doubt his winning abilities. However, I have a feeling that 2019 may be Rickie’s year; and by the years’ end, we will all be speaking of him in a whole new way.

After finishing in the top five in every major in 2015, a major win looked very close to the grasp of Rickie Fowler. But, it hasn’t been that smooth sailing for the 2010 Rookie of the Year. Majors have evaded Fowler’s grip thus far despite his best efforts, and some good tries. He finished one shot short of eventual winner Patrick Reed in last year’s Masters, despite shooting twelve under par on the weekend; a great example of many near misses for Rickie.

With every miss, the tag of being “the greatest golfer without a major” is packed more and more into the identity of Fowler. But, that tag shouldn’t necessarily by an insult. Players like Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson have all received the same designation in the past. Each man has had his record questioned, and his ability to win examined, but every man has since won a major and will no doubt make their way to the hall of fame. Fowler will do too, and 2019 will go some way to helping his cause.

Fowler’s game looks to be in great shape, and vastly improved from previous years. Statistically, Fowler’s most significant improvement this season has been in his putting. He is eighth in the strokes gained-putting category, a marked growth from 43rd in that section last year. With great putting being the games most sought after skill, and a much-needed attribute for a consistent winner; it is interesting to see just how good Fowler is in that area. He is also third in scoring average, 33rd in driving distance and sixth in the birdie average category. It seems that Fowler is acing the test in all of the most crucial statistical areas. His game is in excellent shape, and everything seems to be pointing in his direction.

Rickie won the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February in spite of a rag-tag final round. Most impressively, Rickie rescued his final round in Phoenix by birdieing two of the last four holes. Fowler’s ability to shoot a final round 3-over-par 74 at TPC Scottsdale demonstrated immense courage. Perhaps that newfound courage stems from his many near-misses. Some see the fact he is without a major at 30 as a curse, but it may be a blessing. We saw in Phoenix how Rickie now has the skill to keep his ailing rounds alive and to resurrect them when they look dead. It is now becoming clear that Fowler’s near misses have made him stronger and a better all-around golfer. He may not have the wins to date that most expected, but he is better off for it.

Rickie’s career bears comparisons to Justin Rose, a player who had struggled and often limped through his career when many thought he would be flying. Like Fowler, Rose learned from his mistakes and has achieved his best results in his 30s. Among many victories, Rose has a U.S. Open Trophy, an Olympic gold medal, and a FedEx Cup in his 30s. Fowler should take heed of the World Number Two’s achievements and be encouraged that he can emulate or even surpass them.

With the Masters on the horizon, don’t be surprised to see Rickie at the top of leaderboards and winning serious golf tournaments. Fowler is a better player than he has ever been, and after a great start to the year, he will surely rise to the occasion this season.

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