Evaluating Golf Course Greens Conditions, Part I

Part I -

No one should know better than the golf course superintendent the importance of having good greens. Especially since we are ultimately accountable for the conditions.   When the greens are doing well we get a pat on the back and when they are not we get a kick in the behind.   


Being accountable for the conditions is the easy part because we trained for this job.  But, the duties of the golf course superintendent encompass much more than that. I once counted these and there were more that 20 major duties from turf manager, horticulturist, meteorologist, time and task manager to tournament preparation expert – to name a few.


Included on this list is “communication” both verbal and written, and reporting the golf course conditions falls within this duty.  This is no easy task when you are talking about 150 acres of land with 75 of these acres as maintained turf .   Nevertheless, reporting is an important part of our responsibilities and it must be done in a manner that can be easily understood by others even if they do not have the same training and experience that we do. 


Reporting can be simple if you have a good system, and a good system starts with the golf course conditions evaluation.  Once a month the superintendent should do a walk through and rate the conditions using a precise rating system the represents the ideal conditions of your club.  Even more important, is that this system is agreed upon by key parties.  Having agreement and a precise system enables the golf course superintendent to provide a monthly report of the golf course conditions that can be easily understood by all.  Why is it easy to understand?  Because it starts with agreed upon criteria and is largely uses metrics instead of subjective opinion.


The criteria I use for developing the Tee 2 Green Benchmarking system was based on close to 40 years experience doing evaluations in the U.S. and Asia.  It can be grouped into three main categories:

  1. Presentation of the greens – aesthetics and look

  2. Playability of the greens – ball roll 

  3. Maintenance standards of the greens – procedures done correctly


The first category to evaluate your greens is presentation.   When a member or guest steps on to your greens the first thing he will experience is the the presentation of the greens.  There is nothing more enjoyable than stepping on to vibrant, lush looking turf and for most golfers the experience is an important part of the playing the game.

Signs of unhealthy turf such as discoloration due to off types can negatively impact expectations.  If extremely unhealthy, as with bare areas , it may even negatively impact the golfer’s play.   Mechanical damage is another condition that is distracting to the golfer; and if in the line of his ball roll this too can impact the playability of the green. 

Unhealthy turf, bare areas, mechanical damage, off-types and ball marks are conditions that most significantly affect the visual presentation of the green and thus the visual expectations of the golfer.


When evaluating the conditions of your greens it is important to include criteria that reflects the presentation of the greens.  Expectations may not be the same year round due to location of your course, season and such.  Presentation may also be affected by mandatory maintenance procedures such as verticutting.  During these periods you can expect that presentation would rate low on a metric system.  However, with agreement of procedure and proper communication  of this low rating is acceptable as it will result in long term objectives and a higher ratings in long term presentation trends.  Not to mention the positive affects on playability and maintenance standards. 

Criteria should be established, agreed upon and used consistently.


  1. The golf course superintendent has as part of his responsibilities the communication of golf course conditions on a monthly basis.

  2. The golf course superintendent should report conditions in a manner that is agreed and understood by all relative parties.

  3. The golf course superintendent should conduct a monthly evaluation using the same criteria each month.   

On a personal note I have found valuation golf course conditions an invaluable tool for me as a superintendent and consultant.  On more occasions than I can count I have used it in meetings to bring all the various viewpoints back to a common page.  Only then were we able to continue with more constructive discussion and planning.  I hope you found this helpful and if you like it I invite you to download our free APP on your App Store. 

Look out for the next article – Evaluating Greens and Playability.

Tony Taylor, CGCS

Tony Taylor, CGCS

Golf course maintenance consulting and evaluations for nearly 40 years.

Download Tee2Green LITE on your favorite App store for FREE!

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