"The greens were rolling about 12 on the stimpmeter early in the week (a measure of how far a ball rolls out a notch in a stick on a flat surface) and someone even tossed out the possibility of the greens reaching 13 by the end of the week."How fast is a twelve? As a recreational golfer, it's unlikely you've ever had to play greens that glassy. Here's a chart from the Turf Management school at Michigan State University to give you an idea of what a typical non-pro sees on their home course:
Speeds for Regular Membership Play (measured by Stimpmeter)
Speeds for Tournament Play
The main reason a superintendent doesn't keep greens at your club that quick are simple: many climates won't support it long-term in the summer. On top of that achieving fast greens on a daily basis requires more maintenance. Due to labor, material and equipment costs that makes it prohibitively expensive, and if anything is missed, or things go wrong the grass on the greens will die very quickly. Again, from Michigan State, here's a look into what is necessary:
Fast greens must be mowed more frequently. They must be verticut more frequently. They must be topdressed more frequently. Fertilization must be on a light and frequent basis. Watering must be done more carefully. Lower mowing heights needed to achieve fast greens also place the turfgrass plant under more stress. A reduced rooting depth can be expected under lower mowing heights. The shorter roots require more frequent irrigation and syringing during the summer to sustain the turfgrass plant. Shorter roots also reduce the grass plant's ability to recover from insect and disease attack. An increase in insecticide and fungicide use may be needed.And if you're the super or the head pro, you can expect your higher handicap golfers to howl about how "unfair" the greens are. For example, on "Home" -- the 17th hole at Eagle Ridge, where I live, the green is a slope from left to right as you face it on the fairway, and Tom Kite and Bob Cupp, our course's designers, saw fit to put a false side along the right edge of the narrow green, with a 20-foot dropoff to a creek below that. Miss it right, you are dead, and in the water. A draw is a necessity, fades or slices are punished severely. I've seen dozens of golfers hit the green from the fairway only to watch the ball trickle off and roll all the way down into the gully. In fact, it is cheap entertainment to sit on our back deck and watch this happen over and over during golf season. And we've seen some incredible temper tantrums and flying clubs as a result. Can you imagine a green like that cut at tournament speed?
Pictured: Eagle Ridge's 17 Green looking back up the fairway. You can't see the drop off from the right side, but it looms over the top of the green in this picture. I call it "The Valley of Sin." Photo by Charles Boyer.