What is a Stimpmeter in Golf?

What is a Stimpmeter?

Have you ever been watching golf on TV and you keep hearing the announcers talk about the stimpmeter and have no clue what they’re talking about? You might be thinking, “What is a stimpmeter anyway?”

If so, we got you covered with this golf post. While there are a lot of commonly used golf terms out there, even this term isn’t known by a ton of golfers worldwide. 

But, it is important to know as the device has one main function; calculate the green speeds. For a lot of amateur golfers, the faster the greens, the more difficult it is to putt consistently well. 

Meanwhile, golf professionals tend to love faster greens as they are easier to get the ball started on the correct line and stay true to your read. Slower greens are more challenging for good players because you have to hit it harder which usually means more bumps along the way to the hole. This gives it a higher chance of getting off line and not ending up in the hole.

Stimpmeter 101

Here’s everything you need to know about the device that measure green speeds, stimp ratings, and more. 

History of Stimpmeter 

According to Wikipedia, the original stimpmeter was designed by a golfer named Edward Stimpson SR. in 1935. He was a Massachusetts state amateur golfer and former Harvard team captain who first got the idea to measure green speed after watching the 1935 U.S. Open at Oakmont. 

That year, the winning score was +11 which is uncharted territory for a winning score in a major and the main reason was the nasty pace on the short stuff. After that event, he got the idea to measure green speed and developed his first device to measure the speed of the greens – now known as a stimpmeter. 

Eventually, in 1976 it was updated by the USGA and made available to golf courses and superintendents in 1978. In 2013, the USGA rolled out the latest version of the stimp and is still used today but hasn’t changed much since its original design nearly a century ago. Originally, it was a 36” wooden tool and has since evolved into an aluminum device. 

The tool itself is very non-technical. It measures three feet in length and has a singular track to roll the golf ball from a top notch. Of all the golf gadgets and golf accessories out there, the stimpmeter is arguably the most “old school” of the bunch.

How does a stimpmeter work

How a Stimpmeter Works

A stimpmeter helps measure the speed of the greens, but only if used correctly. First, you need to find a pretty flat part of the green. Obviously, if it’s significantly downhill or uphill, it will affect the reading, so finding a flat part of the putting surface is required.

A golf course superintendent or tournament manager would place a golf ball at the end of the device and then raise that end manually until it reaches 22 degrees. At this point, gravity will take over and cause the golf ball to release from the notch. The ball will roll down the channel located in the center of the stimpmeter, exit the ramp, and roll out on the green. 

How far the golf ball will roll out determines the stimp reading. For example, if the ball rolls out eight feet, the stimp is an 8.0. But if it rolls out 12 feet, the greens are rolling fast and would be a 12. 

Typically, whoever is calculating the speed will roll the ball in several directions to account for any slope or grain as well. They might also use it on different greens as well to ensure the speed is nearly the same throughout. Then, an average stimp reading is calculated and reported based on how far the golf ball rolls.

When the USGA updated the stimp in 2012 they also added a feature on the reverse side of the ramp. Since a lot of courses don’t have 10+ feet of flat areas, they made it so that you can roll the golf ball half as far and then double it to calculate the pace.

How to Make a Stimpmeter

Stimpeters aren’t a wildly popular selling item as most people don’t have their own at home putting greens. While you can get some awesome indoor putting greens, you can’t change the turf so buying a green reading device like this isn’t usually something you need.

But the USGA doesn’t sell them nor are there a ton of selections on Amazon, so it’s up to you to become a golf expert and make your own if needed. You can make them with wood as the original design or aluminum bar like the latest design. 

Watch this YouTube video below to learn how to make your own.

Stimpmeter FAQs

Got more questions about stimp ratings on the golf course? We got answers! 

What is fast on the stimpmeter?

Fast or slow is arbitrary but in general, anything over an 11 is considered fast amongst most golfers. Some of the fastest green readings are around 14 or 15 (like Augusta National) and are nearly impossible to putt on for most amateur golfers as the golf ball rolls forever. 

If you measured on an average putting green at your golf club, it will usually measure between 9-10, depending on the time of the year. Winter golf usually has more moisture in most areas of the world and tends to yield higher grass which results in slower greens. But in the summer months, things can speed up as the course dries out and the ball rolls further.

Regular PGA Tour events are usually 11 or over. Remember, pace isn’t everything though. Some courses have so much slope and undulating terrain that they can’t speed them up too much or the course would play unfair. 

Stimpmeter

How high does the Stimpmeter go?

The stimp highest readings are usually between 13-15. This is more likely to occur at major championship venues and prestigious events like the Ryder Cup. 

The readings at the prestigious Augusta National are usually 12 or more and can make even great players look like amateur golfers as it is very difficult to control your speed. Places like Augusta have so much slope on the greens (like #9 or #13) that players can easily 3 or 4 putt without being cautious on downhill putts. 

What is the average green speed?

The average pace is usually around 9 for the average putting green on most municipal golf courses and 11 or above for PGA Tour events.  Golf courses in the United States tend to have faster greens than ones in Europe due to the type of grass and typical weather conditions. Plus, old school championship greens like St. Andrews are 3-4x the size of an average green in the United States but relatively flat.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you now have a much better understanding of stimpmeters and how they are used in the golfing world. Remember, this tool has one main purpose – help superintendents easily read the speed of the greens. This helps them understand their greens better and make adjustments with their maintenance team as needed

The next time you’re watching golf on TV and see a reading come up on the screen, you will have a much better understanding. Plus, it can also help you as some courses display the stimpmeter reading in the pro shop or near the first tee. This can help you get a clue before the round about the pace of the greens so you aren’t caught off guard on the course. 

What green speeds do you normally play on? Do you prefer fast greens or slow greens according to stimp ratings?

Let us know in the comments section below! 

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