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Faster greens could be detrimental in golf’s comeback

Taking extra strokes is a good way to turn new golfers away from game


November 30, 2021
By Mike Slack

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Mike Jiggens photo

Have you ever thought about how green speed affects the mental state of a golfer and your revenue stream? I believe green speed is huge factor which can change a golfer’s perspective of your course and your revenue stream. 

I have been asked the question many times: “What is a normal greens height or green speed?” as we set up various mowers on golf courses. My obvious answer is always: “Who is playing your course, or what is an average handicap?” 

Due to COVID-19, we have seen a major influx in new golfers and never-before-seen “Sorry, sold out” on tee sheets weeks in advance. The question is, how do we keep them coming back?

One answer is green speed. 

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I believe that if a green is putting too quickly, the average golfer or new golfer cannot navigate speeds of this calibre, often putting well past the hole and taking extra shots per hole. This can be detrimental to, first, a golfer’s mental strain and, second, promoting slow play which affects more golfers starting their rounds. 

Let’s say a golfer takes an extra putt every other hole. That’s nine shots per golfer. If you average 200 players a day, that is 1,800 shots which translates into approximately 20 golfers per day! I may be wrong, but I believe it is not unreasonable to say that is 1,500 to 2,000 a day, just because your greens are too fast for your average Joe! Those golfers may also feel the course is unfair, leaving a bad taste, and, with social media today, that can travel very quickly online through course reviews. 

Because golf has been known as a stuffy sport for years past, we need to make it “more enjoyable” to come out and play. Some suggestions I have are: 

Offer a free 20-minute golf lesson prior to playing. This may be just enough to help that newbie get off the tee.

Have a “rock and roll” Thursday where golfers are encouraged to bring their own music and remote speaker to use in their cart. Now that takes the “stuffy” out of golf!

Mow the rough further into the fescue area to make it feasible to hit a stray shot and find your ball quicker or get back on track.

Most owners I know are about the esthetics and challenge of their course and forget that sometimes simpler makes the till ring more often.

I like to compare fast greens to a person who is trying baseball for the first time. They step up to bat and Roger Clemons shows up on the mound! More than likely they aren’t coming back!

Maintenance tip of the day
I was fortunate enough to get a tee time this spring to play Copetown Woods Golf Club (amazing course, Pete!). Rather than using a two-tee marker system, they use one coloured stake in the rough beside the tee to mark the tee-off area according to the blocks you are playing. This gives the golfer full range of the tee to place his ball, but more importantly allows the maintenance crew to cut tees and never have to move blocks and re-arrange them. I can’t imagine the time saved, and just as important, the scattering of divots not being so concentrated in one area. Brilliant!!


Mike Slack is the owner of Slack Reel Services in Burlington, Ont., which has been serving the golf and turf industry since 1989. The business is family-run and deals with various companies across Ontario and other parts of Canada, specializing in reel mower sharpening, parts distribution and on-road service technical work, mainly in Ontario. The business may be reached by calling (905) 516-4757 or by emailing slackreelservice@gmail.com.