At the United States Golf Association’s annual meeting recently in New York, someone asked USGA Executive Director Mike Davis what the association can do to lower green speeds at golf courses, since fast greens are a contributing factor in slow play and can cause a lot of frustration for many golfers.
Davis acknowledged the problem, saying, “There’s this notion that fast equals good.”
No doubt. Golfers, from high to low handicaps, want fast greens. The low-handicappers want them because they desire the same challenge that pro golfers face. The high-handicappers want them because they want to be like the low handicaps, even with their four putts.
Davis said the USGA needs to send a message “to get grass heights back to a reasonable level” and that going from green speeds that were 11 or 12 on the Stimpmeter back down to 9 or 10 is a good thing for the game,” including agronomically.
That’s all well and good, but how is the USGA going to do this? How is it going to send a message that putting greens need to be mowed higher?
Here in lies part of the problem. The USGA hosts a tournament — it’s called the U.S. Open — that tends to glorify fast greens like old metal heads do Led Zeppelin. In fact, the tournament has made a name for itself with its hurried greens, some up to 14 feet.
I know, I know … the USGA will say the U.S. Open greens are for pros only, and that Joe Golfer has as much business putting on them as he does driving his Toyota Camry in the Daytona 500. Sorry, but a lot of Joe Golfers aren’t going to bite on that.
The bottom line is that Americans, in general, have an insatiable appetite for speed — from ordering, receiving and consuming a McDonald’s sausage biscuit in 90 seconds, to going 85 in a 75 MPH zone, to putting on greens running at 12 feet.
The USGA has contributed to this need for speed through the U.S. Open. Want to lower the green speeds for Joe Golfer? Then start by lowering them at the U.S. Open.