Green Speed

As Club Captain, I’m often privileged to be on the receiving end as Members opine about all matters concerning Course conditions, especially our greens. The most common comments made about greens are: 1) they’re in great condition 2) the greens are too fast and 3) the greens are too slow. Some days I get all three comments from three different members.

The fact of the matter is that our Turfcare Team follows firm guidelines to set up green speeds. The Niakwa standard is 10.5 – 11.5 on the Stimp Meter

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“What’s a Stimp Meter?” you may ask. Basically, it’s a 3 foot stick with a V-shape down which a ball is rolled. The Stimp Meter was invented in the 1930’s by Edward Stimpson, the Captain of the Harvard Golf Team. The technology hasn’t changed much since the ’30’s.

The Evolution of the Three Foot Stick

To get a Stimp Rating, the ramp is raised at one end. When the stick hits a 20 degree angle the ball is automatically released. The distance the ball travels, in feet, on the flat part of the green becomes the Stimp Rating. If the ball travels 10 feet, the Stimp rating is 10. The USGA has had to wisdom to not confuse matters with Metric Stimp Meters.

The Life of a Golf Course Superintendent

A Stimp rating of 6 would be common on a public course. The USGA states: “at your local muni, an 8.5 Stimp rating would be considered lightning-fast.” The standard for the US Open is a Stimp rating of 11 and sometimes Stimp ratings can be as high as 13-15. Our standard of 10.5 – 11.5 is quick, but not overly so.

So what are the factors that affect Green Speed? Here’s a partial list provided by our Superintendent, Shawn Major:

  • Turf Type
  • Mowing Height
  • Mowing Frequency
  • Rolling
  • Fertilization
  • Irrigation
  • Grooming
  • Thatch Management
  • Top Dressing
  • Daytime High
  • Nighttime Low
  • Humidity
  • Dew Point
  • Golfer Traffic
  • Type of Mowing Equipment
  • Sharp Cutting Reels
  • Dull Cutting Reels
  • Growing Mix used on the Green
  • Drainage
  • Firmness
  • Soil Temperature

Our Turf Team manages four different types of greens; our latest and greatest bent grass greens – 1, 2, 13, 17, 18; our bent grass greens rebuilt from 2009 thru 2012 – 6, 11, 12, 16; our bent grass/poa greens from the early 90’s -3, 5, 8, 14; our original 1923 vintage greens 4, 7, 9, 10, 15.

Just as the height and weight of a human body varies over a 24 hour period, so do the physical characteristics of grass. Grass grows throughout the day after mowing. Different varieties of turf grass behave differently. On a hot day, bent grass greens tend to dry out and speed up. Poa tends to grow and puff up – slowing the green down and making it rougher.

Our newest greens have the most modern irrigation systems with individual, programmable, controls on all heads. This allows the turf team to apply water to the green where it’s needed and to avoid overwatering an area where it’s not so dry. On the rest of the greens, two or three heads all operate together. To avoid overwatering some areas and to make sure other areas of the green are moist enough, labour intensive hand watering is required. You’ll often see a member of the Turf Team poking around a green with a moisture tester before hooking up a hose for hand watering.

Double cutting, rolling, and watering are key tools for maintaining intra-day consistency. Occasionally, the Turf Team will speed greens up for competitions, such as the Club Championship. Yesterday, for the Men’s League of Leagues Competition greens were running at a Stimp rating of 13.

Rolling the Green

Starting sometime in September, usually around the 15th, the Turf Team will start letting the greens grow a little longer – to allow the turf to recover and strengthen in preparation for whatever our Winnipeg winter might have in store. This year, with the Course receiving extra heavy traffic and with the dry conditions we’ve had this summer, Shawn may start prepping for fall a little earlier than normal.

Until then we’ll continue to see consistent, excellent conditions with green speeds in the target zone on a daily basis. Given what they’ve faced this year – Covid, early thaw, late freeze, pushing the opening, wet weather, dry weather, heat, cold, bugs, fungus, budget cut – Shawn and his crew have done a great job. Thanks team – on behalf of all Niakwa Members and guests.

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