Evaluating Golf Course Greens Conditions, Part II

In my last article, “Evaluating Golf Greens Conditions, Part I”, I covered the importance and uses of evaluating golf course greens with focus on presentation.   In this article I am going to cover the last two categories – playability and maintenance standards.

Comparing Presentation and Playability

Grain will affect the speed of  ball roll, scuff marks and spike marks caused by the golfer can create snaking and bobbling.  Fortunately today we are allowed to tap down scuff marks and spike marks. 

The golfers subjective opinion of the greens might make it seem like you cannot evaluate greens for playability, but it is quite the contrary.   It is this subjectivity, inherent to some degree in all of us,  that makes it even more important to include playability as part of your evaluation – because it is so subjective!   

Evaluation of greens playability provides a snapshot of the greens conditions as well as a trend of these conditions.  We can see which greens are doing well and which greens need improvement and focus on those improvements, as well as see trends for the greens.   But what is more important is we can report the evaluation findings and use this report information to educate the membership.  This type of information can greatly improve the golfers understanding of playability conditions and thus he learns how to adjust his game.  In particular with the higher handicap golfers.

Maintenance Standards

Maintenance standards start with a Course Management Policy (CMP).  The CMP lays out the Standard Operating Procedures and expected maintenance standards for each season as club resources allow.  But there are several criteria in this category that more strongly influence presentation and playability that I want to bring up in this article.

The first is hole changing.  It is important to make sure the staff that performs this procedure set the cups and the plugs properly.  Leaning flags indicate poor cup cutting or worn out flag sticks or cups.  High plugs will get scalped; whereas, low plugs will develop a darker green spot because the area has more grass.   Of the two, low is better because it will grow, high is worse because it will die – low grow & high die!

Next is disease.  Scouting for disease when weather conditions are ideal and performing preventative fungicides to make sure that your greens stay healthy during inclement weather is of vital importance. There is no faster way to lose areas or patches on greens as from undetected disease that has gone on too long. This will definitely affect playability and may be cause for re-grassing areas of the greens, which is unsightly and negatively affects playability.

Algae on the greens, is a big no-no because the golfer can see it as part of the visual presentation and this may affect putting as well.  If your greens do have algae it is important to take a look at your maintenance programs, especially fertility and water management because something urgently needs adjusting and something is off with your main protocol. 

Other criteria such as encroachment, issues with wear on entrance/exit points, insects, shade or mowing patterns can all be corrected or worsened with good/poor maintenance programs.   This category is very vital as it provides the fundamentals that create best possible conditions for presentation and playability.


(1) The first takeaway should be that evaluating golf course conditions should be done on a regular basis, preferably monthly.

(2) Next, evaluate with the same criteria each month.  This means you should  be sure to start with the most relevant criteria for your club so you don’t need to change it midstream.

(3) Thirdly, use this information to report to your greens committee.  The greens committee can and should use this information to educate the membership via newsletters, bulletin boards or other channels. 

(4) As a superintendent, I have found that evaluation results can also be used to adjust monthly programming.  It can be used to create friendly competitions amongst the maintenance team to motivate them. 

(5)  For the general manager, it is easy to see how your superintendent is doing with his programs because you have your first evaluation – the benchmark evaluation – to compare subsequent evaluations.  Are his programs improving conditions or are they declining.  Is he achieving or surpassing maintenance standards?

(6)  The Greens committee, general manager and Superintendent can discuss progress or improvement needs from the same platform – the evaluation report.  And if you are doing these monthly you can add the trends for each feature as well as the overall conditions.   In my experience this saves a tremendous amount of time trying to get all parties to understand the conditions of the golf course.

The core asset of the club – the golf course – should be measured and it can be measured.   

I hope you found this helpful.

Tony Taylor, CGCS

Tony Taylor, CGCS

Golf Course maintenance consulting and evaluations for nearly 40 years.

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