We know it’s more than just a number, but it can still be a teaching tool for golfers and provide valuable insight for greens management.
When a superintendent gets asked the question, “So, what are the greens rolling today?” many of us tend to cringe, or roll our eyes, or maybe do a subtle combination of the two.
It’s not that superintendents aren’t concerned with green speed and how the greens are rolling. Trust me, often it’s all we think about. But what I find troublesome is just how many other folks are concerned about green speed and just how the term “green speed” has found its way into the very fabric of everyday golf.
Like most superintendents, I fought against the notion of the greens being rated by simply a number produced from a tool. There is more to the playability of a green than just the Stimpmeter measurement. How true a green rolls is as important, if not more so, than that Stimpmeter reading. And other factors, such as consistency, green contours, heat, moisture, health, rounds played, a recent topdressing application, type of grass and time of day all factor into how the greens play (and roll) at any particular moment.
Heck, a simple wetting agent application can lower the measurement half a foot. Sure, that Stimpmeter number is helpful. But is it the end all? Of course not.
However, fighting the Stimpmeter reading battle is difficult for any superintendent, if not downright impossible. Let’s just say it is a battle you are unlikely to win. Accept that the Stimpmeter is not going away. Figure out a way to use the tool to your own benefit. And just as important, make sure it does not become a tool that ends up being a detriment to the health of your greens, which is the biggest fear factor for any superintendent.
The first way to do this is to put the Stimpmeter into your own cart. Make it your tool. For many years the golf pro was the one who would walk out of the proshop, Stimpmeter in one hand, three golf balls in the other, and measure the closest green; which very often was the practice green. No, no. You need to become the Stimpmeter master.
Secondly, in addition to a number for the pro shot, determine just what it is you want to gain from the reading. How can this tool help you?
Use it to help answer some of those daily questions that arise in your mind. Do you need to roll three times a week instead of two? Are we achieving the consistency we want? Is a mow and roll necessary or can I get by with just a roll today? Is it time to lower the height a tad?
And finally, be consistent with the use of the tool. Don’t measure one morning before you roll the greens, and then the next morning after. Or, don’t measure before watering one day, but then after irrigation the next day. Try to keep the cultural practices, inputs and environmental conditions as consistent as possible.
Last year the owner of the course asked me if we could start to post a daily Stimpmeter reading in the proshop. Yikes! At first, although I agreed, I was extremely apprehensive. Mainly because I firmly believe that the Stimpmeter reading limits golfers to thinking of the condition of the greens as simply a measurement of ball roll. And of course they don’t even think of it as ball roll, but as the speed of the green, which I’ve never liked. A Stimpmeter doesn’t measure speed. It measures distance. As I’ve mentioned, greens are so much more than a reading from a tool.
However, after I began posting it, I started to mind it less. Although I ended up posting it about three times a week instead of daily, I find by posting a number it kind of keeps me on my toes and lets golfers know we are concerned with their experience each and every day.
I post not just the reading, but I also post a range we are shooting for, and why.
So, final takeaway: Although the Stimpmeter may not be the favorite tool in your cart, it definitely should be a tool in your cart.