The green speed doc is in

Thom Nikolai presents “Your 25 Minute Appointment with the Green Speed Doctor.”

February 11, 2010

Tuesday's "You Asked for it... you Got It!" session at the GCSAA Education Conference was developed by superintendents sharing their top challenges and then voting on the speaking topics. Not surprisingly, green speeds are on everyone’s mind.

Nikolai shared the results of a green speed program he assisted in implementing for Crystal Downs Country Club in Frankfort, Mich., when superintendent Mike Morris, CGCS, came to him with the question, “Is it possible to maintain a consistent green speed for an entire playing season?”
Crystal Downs’ green chairman was asking the questions, “What are the speeds day-to-day?” and “What’s the best speed for our golf course?”
To answer those questions, Nikolai and Morris developed a four-step process:
1.       Determine daily speeds by collecting data.
2.       Survey golfers to develop a target.
3.       Evaluate maintenance practices; and
4.       Communicate!
The first step, data collection, is typically easy to incorporate into the morning set-up process, Nikolai says. He recommends superintendents always measure the same area on the green. Morris collects data in both the morning and the afternoon, which is a great time to interact with golfers and get direct feedback from them.
The next step is surveying players. Nikolai advocates the “Morris Method,” which entails selecting a pool of about 20 golfers from a variety of different demographic groups (high handicappers, low handicappers, ladies, etc.) and asking them to rate the green speeds every time they play on the following scale: too slow, slow/OK, OK, fast/OK or too fast.
Morris and his team discovered that 80 percent of their golfers thought the greens were either fast/OK or OK when they were in the 9.5-10.5 range.
This information gave them a green speed range to shoot for.
The third step entailed evaluating all the maintenance practices that would allow them to achieve the desired green speed and tweaking those practices as necessary.
The final step is communicating the results to players. The best way, Nikolai says, is a simple sign that says, “The established range of green speeds for this golf course is X-X.” And then indicate whether the day’s green speed is below the range, within the range or above the range.
“They don’t need the actual numbers,” Nikolai points out. He says many superintendents with members upset about green speeds begin this process and then stop several weeks in just because the members are satisfied that their needs are being paid attention to. Others follow through with all four steps and see great results.
“If you do it and they’re happy then you’re the hero,” he says. “And that means you should make more money.”