A recent debate at the European Institute of Golf Course Architects AGM discussing the pro’s and con’s of exceptionally undulating greens raised some interesting points.
I recently attended the European Institute of Golf Course Architect AGM in North Berwick. One of the days involves several presentations, one of which was an “undulating greens” debate. The subject was spawned by the attendance of one of the golf course architects who tends to design what can only be described as exceptionally undulating greens.
There were two sides to the debate. The “severely undulating greens” arguments based on the philosophy to create interest for the golfer, greens that are fun and challenging. Nobody wants boring flat putts on greens monotonous surfaces and it was also pointed out that in most cases the architects recommended maximum stimpmeter speeds of 8 (Augusta would be as high as 13) to ensure the greens did not become unplayable. This in turn has the added advantage of easier maintenance; longer grass on greens equals less wear & tear, diseases and the need for chemicals and fertilisers – environmentally friendly.
The debate against; why form what are effectively unplayable greens often resulting in 3, 4 or even sometimes 5 putts. Golf is a tough enough game as it is without the greens potentially completely ruining your round of golf. It is agreed that golf should be a challenge and a game of skill; however sink a putt with a 20 foot break equates to nothing more than luck. It has often been pointed out that the perfectly flat putt is the most difficult. Additionally, even though golf courses will never be natural features in the landscape, at least some effort should be made to blend the golf course into the land. One will be hard pushed to describe some of the more severe greens as natural.
In my view, quite strong cases from both sides of the debate. However, to me, the answer is not particularly complicated. Without doubt, greens with little in the way of interest can be uninspiring. However, greens with wild, sometimes unplayable undulations (no matter what the stimpmeter reading) can be a little over the top. Somewhere in-between normally works just fine.
Just to add some spice to the debate, I am however a little suspicious that architects that design these types of greens have an ulterior motive that is not necessarily in the best interests for the golfers playing their courses? After all, there is no such thing as bad publicity and the greens they have formed have certainly raised their profile.