Greens Performance - Are You Measuring It?


One of the biggest complaints from golfers is that their greenkeeper does all this work to their greens and the greens never seem to improve. A greenkeeper can be out there spiking to their heart's content, but if the surfaces don't improve, make no mistake, they will be under pressure.

Smooth putting surfaces are crucial to getting the golfers on your side!

Golf course maintenance in my opinion, is a trade off between good agronomic practises and playability. You have to sit right in the middle of these two as leaning too much to either side will mean you are bound to fail. But how do you measure it? Do you keep saying that the greens are getting better when the golfers view is the contrary? The greenkeeper works his balls off (excuse the pun) only to walk in to the 19th hole and be set upon by angry golfers; very disheartening. No matter where you are in the world, this seems to be a common theme for greenkeepers but what can we do about this?

I always encourage greenkeepers to conduct their own trials and tests. Why rely on outside agencies such as consultants or sales agents to come in and do their tests when, with minimal investment and a little time set aside, you can perform your own. There are two areas to analyse with your testing, as follows:

1) Agronomy
In my last blog I talked about the need to conduct tests before you start an aggressive aeration programme. How do you know where you want to go, if you don't know where you are starting from? Its the same with measuring. Before you bamboozle golfers with scientific talk, make sure you know how the results are going.

Below is a list of tests that should be conducted throughout the year:
  • Soil and tissue analysis
  • Soil moisture content
  • Percolation rate
  • Organic matter content
  • Compaction levels
  • Shoot density
  • Bulk density
Height of cut - Bench setting v actual height on the greenSome of these tests will have to be completed by a certified laboratory, but most can be performed by you with just a little investment in items such as a petrometer to measure compaction, a moisture probe for soil moisture and an infiltration meter for percolation rate.

2) Performance

For a golfer, the performance of the green is the most important consideration. Turf managers may get excited about how we have reduced our thatch percentage in the top 25mm or how the greens are draining 2mm per hour faster than last year but this information just goes over the heads of the golfers! However, tell them that the greens are stimping at 11 instead of 10, or that the smoothness has gone up from 8 to 9 this week and you will have their attention. A lot of managers get scared about giving them this type of information, but why should you if you are confident of producing the results?

For performance, the criteria should be:
  • Speed
  • Ball roll
  • Firmness
We all know how to measure speed, it is universally measured with a stimp meter, but what about ball roll and firmness? The STRI have brought out devices to measure these which is great. The only problem is cost. The trueness meter currently costs around £12,000 to buy, but what turf manager can afford to slip that into their course budget? However, over the last few years I have been collating data using a method that you may find acceptable, using only your own time and good eyesight.

I will explain all in my next blog!