The A B C's of green speed

We have had an amazing stretch of weather in the last few weeks. Continuing "the year of firsts" theme I do not recall a stretch of constant wind, no rain and almost zero dew for such a long period of time. It helped create some fantastic playing conditions and also made the course look more like it does in August than May. I received a lot of great comments about the course and the greens in particular.I also received a few questions as well so I thought I would explain the basics of green speed here.

What causes friction? Obviously height of cut is on the top of the list.

 The most influential factor governing ball roll is friction. The more friction there is the slower the ball will travel and the faster it will stop rolling. What causes friction? Obviously height of cut is on the top of the list. Try putting on the fairway then the tee then on a green. The longer the grass the more surface area for the ball to contact and create friction. There is a point of diminishing returns however when greens are lowered beyond what the turf type you are growing can handle. A key factor for consistency throughout the day has been the use of plant growth regulators PGR's. It is common for greens turf to be regulated throughout the season. There are many benefits to using PGR's such as reduced water use, thicker stand,  but the main reason is for a reduced clipping yield. If the turf is not growing that much than the height of cut in the morning is similar to the height in the afternoon and so they should putt relatively the same. Assuming most greens are pretty close to the same height I would say moisture is the biggest player on putting greens for creating friction. Not only moisture on the surface or in the ground but also in the air. As the humidity rises in the summer the ball travels less due to the friction of all that moisture in the air. The same is true for putting. The weather conditions we had were absolutely perfect for ball roll. Low humidity, dry surface, and wind all helped create a firm playing surface. Add to that regulated growth and the greens were firm and fast all on their own.

Our greens have their most speed in the Fall when conditions mimic the ones we had recently. 

One procedure that has become popular again in golf course maintenance is rolling. Rolling helps to speed ball roll by flattening the grass blades so less surface area to cause friction. Courses that chase speed will roll often, sometimes even daily. Green speed should be set to match the budget, grass type, ability of players, and the contours of the putting greens. When green speed exceeds the contours of a green the balls roll off the surface which then slows play as golfers take 3,4 or more putts to hole out. This will also cause certain hole locations to be deemed unfair and limit the number of usable spaces. Our greens have their most speed in the Fall when conditions mimic the ones we had recently. My goal is to have healthy turf which provides a smooth consistent ball roll with a speed that is not deemed slow by current standards but also will not limit the areas in which we can place a cup. I also do not want the speed of greens to be a hindrance to pace of play. Based on the comments I receive we accomplish these goals. It is fun to have perfect weather to provide faster conditions naturally even if only for a short time.

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