Developing and Maintaining Fast, Consistent Greens on the Golf Course

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One of the true hallmarks of a great golf course is its greens.

So what is the gauge for great greens? Most professionals will tell you the speed and consistency are the true barometers for an outstanding putting surface.

For good measure, you can toss into the equation the undulations, grain (or lack thereof), consistency of color, and size.

William Smith is general manager of Indian Spring Country Club in Boynton Beach, Florida, where many consider its two golf courses’ greens to be among the fastest in the state.

“The best golfers want to putt as the champions do on the PGA,” Smith says. “They want the greens fast and true, just like they see on TV.”

Smith admits that there’s more to a green than just speed. As a PGA professional himself, he knows that the best players expect the greens to be consistent. And that’s one of the great challenges for golf superintendents. Why? Because the weather is never consistent, and neither are the rainfall or the seasons.

When Indian Spring set out to establish its greens as the best around, they found that constant care had to be taken on a regular basis.

Smith declares that the best greens are the ones that are fast and consistent throughout the year. “An excellent golf course is one that plays the same from month to month, even as the weather changes.”

Smith explains that greens are normally faster during the colder months as the grass leafs tighten. Keeping the greens true as well as fast is essential to maintaining quality play.

Smith adds that Indian Spring’s greens don’t have a lot of grain, and neither do most of the great greens across the world. With mowing heights now as low as 1/8 inch, the effect of grain is lessened. Alternating mowing patterns produce razor cut lengths and help eliminate the one-way flow of grain.

“Grain is usually at a minimum on top quality putting surfaces, which means the putts stay on their intended course better.”

The club’s golf superintendent Rick Ramsey says outstanding greens demand maximum attention to fertilization, water drainage, top dressing and aerification.

He explains that proper drainage is critical to avoid fungi, which is a golf green’s major enemy. Eschewing granular fertilizers in favor of organic varieties helps avoid overdoses of nitrogen in the soil.

Ramsey notes that his staff is highly trained and capable of giving careful scrutiny to the greens — essential to preventing problems from proliferating.

“Providing the best care of our greens demands immediate action. Whenever our staff sees the first sign of a problem, we address it before it becomes nefarious.”

Golf courses have different personalities and so do their greens. According to Ramsey, “Indian Spring’s East Course has more subtle breaks in the green, which make it more challenging because it tests a golfer’s reading of the putt. “

“The West Course is shorter, yet features more green undulation, making shot placement so critical.”

“My goal,” says Ramsey, “is to not interfere with the playability of the greens. Keeping the greens consistent and predictable throughout the year truly is the litmus test of great greens — and their biggest challenge.”

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