Bevard: Stimpmeter, Friend or Foe?
Today I noticed a rather interesting article on the USGA website by contributor Darin S. Bevard, a senior agronomist from the Mid-Atlantic region. Bevard's article focused on the Stimpmeter - a long, metal or plastic tool used to measure green speed prior to most professional and amateur tournaments. You can read the full article here. A few of the comments that caught my eye hinge on the overall effectiveness of the practice used when implementing a Stimpmeter measurement. For example, as Bevard suggests in his article, one of the biggest misconceptions that green superintendents have on the course today is that their greens have to be faster.
A big problem for golf course superintendents is golfer desire to have faster greens. Many times, the current speed of greens is not even considered. Rather, the greens just need to be faster, faster, faster.
The "problem" that Bevard refers to is the fact that making greens lightning-fast only leads to added stress to the turf, especially if a course's green speed is relatively quick to begin with. Many golf courses, public and private, implement an average green speed reading which superintendents attempt to maintain throughout the season. This is much more difficult of a task in the areas of the country where weather varies on a consistent basis or where hydration issues are plentiful. In other words, making greens faster isn't always the best for the long-term health of the course.
Another factor golfers must consider (i.e. average golfers) is when a course's greens are cut during the week. In the case of public courses this is usually done on the weekends due to the traditionally high volume of play that will occur, followed by a lower volume throughout the week. Private clubs can typically save this maintenance for Mondays, when most clubs are closed. However, regular players who try to get out more than once a week will experience different speeds as the grass grows, obviously. This could have a negative impact on a player's handicap or course playability. This is presumably where a Stimpmeter would come into play as a means to keep course conditions consistent.
The next obvious issue, then, would be resource availability. After all, someone has to cut those darn greens. In this situation a Stmipmeter-controlled course structure could be rather costly to the course, especially in the example of a smaller municipal track.
Bevard's article, again, is a rather interesting read for those of us who tend to notice such differences on the course.