Play suspension highlights green speed stupidity at Riviera

Ivan Morris

Golfers, caddies and staff return to the clubhouse after play was suspended due to high winds during the third round of The Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

To be forced into suspending a top golf tournament because a 35mph wind made the putting greens unplayable is a shock; particularly to those of us in ‘windy Ireland’ where we regularly play championship golf in 50mph winds or worse.

It was a shame to see such a great tee to the green, ball-striking golf course like Riviera, caught up in such a controversy. Of course, the wind wasn’t the problem, it was the too fast green surfaces. Greens should never be allowed to play above 10-stimps. Greens above that speed make a farce of the game.

A 35mph wind would be considered a balmy, gentle zephyr by regular competitors in the West of Ireland at Rosses Point where the locals would shrug their shoulders and say: “The wind is in a hurry today. Open the windows and let it blow itself out!” On a links it’s always windy, but we Irish just get on with it.


Too high green speeds are the evil of evils. Those who set up the courses on the PGA Tour should know better. When play is suspended to allow the wind to die down, it’s not fair on those who have already completed their rounds or have played a lot of holes. To water the greens to slow them down during a stoppage, alters playing conditions artificially and it is grossly unfair and is a breach of the rules.

It’s another example of rules bifurcation between amateurs and pros, and it shows (yet again) that the PGA Tour only cares about the word bifurcation where equipment is concerned. It is then, and only then, they want to be like the amateurs.

A retired Head green keeper with vast experience says: “green speed pressure comes from the top end of the game. The everyday golfer, that’s more than 99%, cannot cope with anything more than 9ft on the stimpmeter, and they are the people paying for the course upkeep. It’s easy to speed greens up for big tournaments, but if there are slopes, or surfaces are exposed as on links, then anything above 10ft is not sustainable in anything other than perfect weather. They made a mess of it.”

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8 responses to “Play suspension highlights green speed stupidity at Riviera”

  1. Kevin Gallagher avatar
    Kevin Gallagher

    To say that greens should never be above 10 on the stimp is nonsense. Part of the skill and touch is the ability to read greens and adjust ones line depending on conditions . There is little skill in thumping a putt on 10 stimp greens or less. Yes riviera got it wrong they new winds were forecast and should have made a one off decision pre tournament to keep speed down a little. That’s one thing but to make a generalised statement re never going over 10 is an insult to decent amateurs never mind professionals. Catch a grip please stating such clap trap in a golf magazine.

  2. Phillip avatar

    Get a grip too KG. The magazine provides we amateurs with a considerable amount of insight into the great game we play & aspire to play. You may disagree with some commentators but there is no need for verbal abuse …claptrap..nonsense..comments possibly ok from raucous soccer spectators…from gentlemen or women golfers..surely not.

  3. billy p avatar
    billy p

    i’d have to agree with kevin, nothing above 10 is nonsense. the PGA Tour rarely get this (setup) wrong, so we can give them a pass on this one. i’m not sure if you watched the telecast, but this is one of the best courses to watch the pros plot their way around every year. And that’s because it plays firm & fast. firm fairways & greens without excessive rough means the ball is being played ‘on the ground’ which is when the pros have least control. that takes real skill, at is much more interesting to watch than the usual ‘driver-wedge’ display. it’s also why the ‘ball strikers’ generally find themselves at the top of the leaderboard, rather than the bombers . i would have thought Ivan would appreciate that?

  4. Ivan Morris avatar
    Ivan Morris

    May I say this? Peter Thomson, 5-times Open Champion and considered one of the wisest of the wise wrote: “Slow greens are more difficult to putt on. How often do you hear players complain about slow greens, saying they could not get the ball up to the hole? If slow greens are a problem, then that is what we should have in championships. To move the ball six or seven metres, you should have to give it a bit of whack. Is that such a bad thing? It’s more difficult to keep the putter face square when swung 12-inches back and 12-inches through instead of one inch on either side of the ball to make it roll as far. Any fool can read slope. To read speed is much more of a problem. Green speed is determined by grass. You must examine the grain and length of the grass. Now, that takes skill!” If you don’t agree with Thomson, let’s ask Ben Hogan. “Anyone can putt on fast greens!” Hogan will tell you and that is all he will say. I suppose Misters Hogan and Thomson might be termed clueless too, by some of today’s millennials not to mention the Open Championship greenskeeper I spoke to about the subject?

  5. GARY+STEWART avatar


  6. Kevin Gallagher avatar
    Kevin Gallagher

    Quite an emotive topic I see. I wouldn’t dare question Hogan or Thompson but bear in mind agronomy has moved on in last 60 years. With regard to the Open greenkeeper, as he is talking about Links courses only then naturally his comment of speed of 10 would seem appropriate. I’ve done my own research, all Usga tournaments try to have speed of 11 or above to test the pros. The famous Augusta runs at 12 on the flat bits and one of most famous us open courses Oakmont at between 13 and 15. Let’s agree to differ , you might want to google …..A brief history of green speed by Thomas Nikolai. Also. The new facts on green speed by Fine Golf. Happy putting gentlemen don’t get the yips ??

  7. Kevin Gallagher avatar
    Kevin Gallagher

    Nothing to beat a little heated debate in our golfless covid restricted days.

  8. Ivan Morris avatar
    Ivan Morris

    USGA would test them better at 7 or 8! There would be fewer single putts holed but, also fewer three putts, which would speed up play and cause less frustration. I’m happy enough when putting on 10 – as long as there isn’t a gale blowing. Above 10-no thanks!

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