The U.S Open at Oakmont — Green Speed and the Stimp Meter
This week’s U.S Open championship will be contested just outside Pittsburg, PA at Oakmont Country Club. It will be the ninth U.S. Open hosted at this famed venue.
Virtually all of golf’s aficionados consider Oakmont one of the most difficult courses in America; a fantastic facility to host the nation’s most prestigious golf championship. Narrow fairways, deep bunkers and punishing rough… but, the real challenge of Oakmont is the speed of the greens; a characteristic that makes this iconic course among the country’s greatest.
But: What is a stimp meter? What does it measure? What does a stimp rating of 14 mean relative to greens we putt on?
The stimp meter was invented in 1937 by a man named Eddie Stimpson. A device that Stimpson developed to help course superintendents develop consistent greens speed on their course.
A stimp meter is a hand held ramp; with a golf ball at one end of the ramp, the operator lifts the ramp until gravity starts the ball rolling. The procedure is repeated in 8 different directions on a flat surface of every green of the course; each roll down the ramp is then measured. The stimp rating of that green is the average feet/inches of the eight rolls.
Well managed courses will have a consistent stimp reading on all 18-greens as well as the practice putting green. If each green is rolling at a consistent speed, a golfer can develop a feel for the course. Just think how annoying it is to adjust to the speed of the practice putting green; then find something completely different on the golf course.
But, through the years stimp ratings have been used more for comparing greens speed from course to course. And, there lies the uniqueness of Oakmont.
Just how fast are greens with a stimp rating of 14?
In 1937 (the year Stimpson developed his tool) the US Open was played near Detroit, Michigan at Oakland Hills Country Club. The greens for that year’s national championship measured two feet, three inches on the stimp meter. In 1966 the Open was contested in San Francisco’s Olympic Club; the green’s speed had only increased to three feet, two inches.
Just think about a stimp rating of 14 this week at Oakmont. To put this incredible greens speed in perspective take a look at the table below.
|Comparative Green’s Speed – Stimp Ratings|
|· Five to Six Feet
Slow-Usually Found on Very Low Budget Courses· Seven to Eight Feet
Medium – Greens at Most Publically Access Courses Roll in This Range· Nine to Ten Feet
Medium Fast – The Majority of NE Private Club Greens are About ten· Eleven
Fast – High End Private Clubs… As Well As Candia Woods and Oaks· Twelve to Thirteen
Scary… Masters and U.S. Open Speed
· Fifteen Plus
|A POOL TABLE STIMPS AT 15’6”|
A stimp rating of 14 this week on Oakmont’s slopped greens… WOW!
To put this incredible greens speed in perspective a pool table stimps
at fifteen feet, six inches, but there are no slopes on a pool table!
Greens speed has become a golfing phenomenon. Golfers of all abilities want to putt on fast greens. Unfortunately, very few golfers understand what it takes to get greens to roll at a fast pace. The construction and soil content in the green foundation, the type of grass on the green surface along with the
cultural/maintenance practices all contribute to how fast a green will putt. Almost all of which is dictated the course’s maintenance budget.
I suspect the maintenance budget at Oakmont is substantial.
Enjoy the U.S. Open. It will be fun to watch and see how the world’s greatest players negotiate Oakmont’s sloped greens stimping at fourteen!
And, if you’d like to putt on smooth fast greens… come play The Oaks or Candia Woods. Not fourteen, but the closest you’ll find here in New England.