Understanding the Stimpmeter in Golf: History, Usage, and DIY Guide

Colin McCarthy

stimpmeter in golf

In the world of golf, precision is everything, and the stimpmeter plays a pivotal role in ensuring that greens are up to par.

Invented by Edward S. Stimpson in the 1930s, this simple yet effective tool measures the speed of putting surfaces, providing crucial data for greenkeepers and course managers.

Modern stimpmeters, made of aluminum, have become an essential part of golf course maintenance.

Back in 1978, the USGA standardized the stimpmeter and measured over 2,000 golf courses, revealing an average green speed of about 6.5.

Fast forward to today, and green speeds have dramatically increased, with championship courses often exceeding speeds of 12.0.

Understanding how the stimpmeter works and its impact on the game can enhance both the golfer’s experience and the quality of the course.

What Is a Stimpmeter?

A stimpmeter is a device used to gauge the speed of putting surfaces on golf courses. Named after its inventor Edward S. Stimpson, who created the first version in the 1930s, the stimpmeter has undergone several upgrades.

The original device was wooden, but modern versions are crafted from aluminum for enhanced durability and accuracy.

The stimpmeter is a 36-inch-long instrument with a V-shaped groove. This design facilitates consistent rolling of a golf ball from a predetermined height.

It includes two notches placed at 30 and 14 inches from the top end. The ball rests in one of these notches before release, ensuring a standardized drop onto the putting surface.

Once a ball is released from the stimpmeter, it rolls down the groove and onto the green. By measuring the distance the ball travels before stopping, greenkeepers can determine the green’s speed.

This distance is the speed of the green in feet. For instance, a green where the ball rolls 10 feet is said to have a stimp reading of 10.

Primarily, greenkeepers and course managers use stimpmeters to ensure putting greens are consistent. This consistency is vital, especially during tournaments, to meet competitive standards.

Greens that are too fast or too slow can negatively impact play, making the stimpmeter an essential tool in course maintenance.

The History of the Stimpmeter

The stimpmeter’s origin dates back to the 1930s when Edward S. Stimpson invented it after witnessing a putt off the green during the US Open at Oakmont.

Stimpson felt the green was excessively fast, which prompted him to create a device to measure putting surface speeds accurately.

The initial version, crafted from wood, had a simple yet effective design. Stimpson’s device featured a V-shaped groove for guiding the golf ball and notches for consistent ball release. This early model laid the groundwork for subsequent refinements and standardizations.

In 1976, the United States Golf Association (USGA) adopted and standardized the stimpmeter, making it an official tool for measuring green speeds.

The modern stimpmeter, made from aluminum, improves durability and ensures precision. This version continues to uphold Stimpson’s original concept while integrating advancements for consistent readings.

Stimpmeter readings gained prominence, becoming essential for golf course maintenance and tournament preparations. By the 1980s, most courses began utilizing the stimpmeter to maintain uniform green speeds across various conditions, reinforcing its importance in the sport.

Legend holds that Kate Stimpson, daughter of Edward Stimpson, played a crucial role in popularizing the stimpmeter. Her advocacy and perseverance ensured the device’s widespread adoption, making it a staple in golf course management.

Throughout the years, the stimpmeter has remained a vital instrument for assessing green speeds. Public courses typically range between 8.5 to 10.5, while PGA Tour greens often measure around 11.

Major Championship courses reach speeds of 11.5 to 13. Consistent readings guarantee fair and competitive conditions during tournaments.

From its humble beginnings to its standardization, the stimpmeter reflects a commitment to precision and excellence in golf.

Edward Stimpson’s legacy endures through this indispensable tool, cementing its role in enhancing the sport’s integrity and enjoyment.

How Does a Stimpmeter Work?

A Stimpmeter is a device used in golf to measure the speed of a putting green. It consists of a metal bar with a V-shaped groove at one end and a sliding plate.

Here’s how it works:

Device Design

A stimpmeter is a narrow, V-shaped aluminum bar designed to measure the speed of putting surfaces. The bar typically measures 36 inches in length with a 145-degree V angle. A notch, positioned 30 inches from one end, holds the golf ball until it’s released.

The design ensures consistency in ball release for accurate measurement. When the ball is released, it rolls down the bar onto the putting surface, allowing golf course managers to gauge the green’s speed.

This tool is crucial for maintaining fair and consistent playing conditions across different golf courses.

Measurement Process

To measure green speed, first select a flat area on the green. Place a golf ball on the notch 30 inches from the end. Then, lift that end slowly while the opposite end remains on the ground until the ball rolls down the chute.

Measure the distance from the end of the stimpmeter to where the ball stops. Repeat this process three times. If each reading is within eight inches of one another, take the average for this direction.

Then, repeat the process in the opposite direction to account for any slope or grain. Combine the averages from both directions to determine the overall green speed. This ensures a more accurate and consistent measurement.

Balancing for Slopes

Next, repeat the above process but in the opposite direction. Position the stimpmeter at the average endpoint of the previous rolls, rolling the ball back towards the initial direction.

This method balances out any slight slopes and the effect of the green’s grain. Ensure the readings in this direction are also within eight inches of one another, then average these results.

Next, repeat the above process but in the opposite direction. Position the stimpmeter at the average endpoint of the previous rolls, rolling the ball back towards the initial direction.

Calculating the Speed

Combine the averages from both directions. This value represents the green speed. For example, if the balls roll an average of 12 feet in both directions, the green speed is 12 feet.

Accurate readings depend on the consistency of the process and the stimpmeter’s design. Additionally, weather conditions and grass type can influence the readings.

Consistent use of the stimpmeter helps course managers maintain optimal playing conditions, ensuring fairness and challenge for golfers.

Different golfing events require specific green speeds. For the US Open, the United States Golf Association (USGA) recommends green speeds ranging from 10 to 14 feet.

Average green speeds typically fall between these ranges to maintain fair and competitive conditions.

US Open10-14 ft
Oakmont CCUp to 15 ft
Average Play8.5-13 ft

Reading and Interpreting Stimpmeter Values

Reading and interpreting Stimpmeter values involves understanding the speed of the putting green, which can significantly impact a golfer’s strategy and approach.

Here’s a guide to interpreting Stimpmeter values:

What Does the Stimpmeter Measure?

A stimpmeter measures the speed of a putting green, indicating how far a golf ball rolls when released from a consistent height. This distance, measured in feet, determines the “stimp” value.

Greenkeepers and course managers use this data to maintain consistent playing conditions. The stimpmeter, an aluminum bar with a V-shaped groove, ensures accuracy in readings by releasing the ball at a controlled, known velocity.

Understanding the stimp value helps golfers anticipate how a ball will behave on different greens, enhancing their play strategy.

Regular monitoring allows for adjustments to turf conditions, ensuring a fair and competitive experience across the course.

What Is Considered a Fast or Slow Green?

Green speeds vary significantly across golf courses depending on maintenance practices and event requirements.

Generally, a stimp reading under 8 feet indicates a slow green, suitable for casual play and higher handicappers. Medium greens, with readings between 9 to 11 feet, offer a balance, providing playability for most golfers.

Fast greens, registering over 12 feet, represent challenging conditions often reserved for professional tournaments like the PGA Tour. The US Open, for example, features green speeds reaching up to 14 feet.

  • Slow Green: < 8 feet
  • Medium Green: 9-11 feet
  • Fast Green: > 12 feet

Practical Applications of the Stimpmeter

The Stimpmeter has several practical applications in the world of golf, benefiting both course maintenance and player strategy.

Here are some practical applications:

Daily Usage in Golf Course Maintenance

Superintendents utilize the stimpmeter daily to monitor green speeds and ensure consistency across the course. Regular measurements help detect any variances due to weather, mowing practices, or irrigation.

By maintaining optimal speeds, superintendents avoid long-term damage to the turf, especially when preparing for tournaments.

Daily stimping provides data that informs decisions on mowing heights, rolling frequency, and other maintenance practices.

Accurate stimpmeter readings also contribute to player satisfaction by offering a consistent playing experience.

These insights are invaluable for understanding how environmental factors influence green speed and implementing necessary adjustments.

Impact on Golf Gameplay and Strategy

The stimpmeter affects gameplay by influencing putting techniques and strategies. Golfers rely on green speed data to gauge how hard to strike the ball and predict its behavior.

Faster greens demand a delicate touch, while slower greens require more force. Professional golfers often adjust their practice routines based on stimpmeter readings, tailoring their strokes to match the expected conditions.

Coaches use this data to develop game plans, particularly for competitive events where green speeds can vary significantly.

DIY Stimpmeter Guide

Creating a DIY Stimpmeter can be a fun project for golf enthusiasts who want to measure green speeds on their own.

Here’s a simple guide to making one:

How to Make Your Own Stimpmeter

Creating a DIY stimpmeter is straightforward with the right materials and tools.

Follow these steps:

Materials Required

  • Aluminum or wooden beam, 36 inches long
  • V-notch to secure the ball
  • Measuring tape
  • Saw or cutting tool
  • Sandpaper

Construction Steps

  • Cut the beam to 36 inches long. Use a saw or cutting tool.
  • Sand the beam’s surface to create a smooth finish.
  • Carve a V-shaped groove along the beam’s length. Ensure it’s centered.
  • At 30 inches from one end, cut a notch deep enough to hold a golf ball.
  • Cut another notch 14 inches from the same end.
  1. Calibration
  • Place the stimpmeter on a flat surface.
  • Release a golf ball from each notch.
  • Measure the distance the ball travels.
  • Adjust the surface smoothness if distances vary widely.
  1. Testing
  • Take six readings: three one way and three in the opposite direction.
  • Average the readings to find the green speed.

Using Your DIY Stimpmeter

Proper usage ensures accurate readings:

Setting Up

  • Select a flat section of the green.
  • Position the stimpmeter securely.


  • Release a ball from the higher notch.
  • Record how far it travels.
  • Repeat in multiple directions for consistency.

Interpreting Results

  • Compare your readings with standard speeds.
  • Adjust green maintenance practices based on findings.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a stimpmeter used for in golf?

A stimpmeter measures the speed of putting greens, helping superintendents and golfers understand how a ball will roll on the surface.

How does the stimpmeter influence gameplay?

Green speeds, categorized as slow, medium, or fast, determined by the stimpmeter, can affect putting strategies and overall gameplay.

Can I make my own stimpmeter?

Yes, you can create a DIY stimpmeter using simple materials. Detailed steps and usage instructions are available to ensure effective monitoring.

How accurate is a DIY stimpmeter compared to a commercial version?

A well-constructed DIY stimpmeter can provide similar accuracy to commercial versions, enabling effective green speed monitoring and adjustment.

What materials are needed to create a DIY stimpmeter?

Typically, you will need a wooden or metal board, a ball-release notch, and measuring tape for calibration and testing.


Understanding and utilizing a stimpmeter can significantly enhance golf course maintenance and gameplay. This simple yet effective tool, whether commercially purchased or DIY, allows for precise measurement of green speeds.

Golfers and superintendents alike benefit from these insights, leading to better maintenance practices and improved putting strategies.

Incorporating a stimpmeter into regular routines ensures greens are consistent and fair, ultimately elevating the overall golfing experience.

Regularly measuring green speeds with a stimpmeter also aids in identifying potential issues with turf health and surface uniformity.

Integrating this tool into your course management protocol can lead to enhanced playability and satisfaction among golfers, while also contributing to long-term turf quality and sustainability.

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Colin McCarthy

Golf is about mastering your misses and learning from them. I seek answers on the how and why of the golf swing, gaining experience even when answers elude me. With over 11,000 hours of teaching and a hunger for learning, I welcome any questions. My goal is to introduce golf to as many as possible, simplifying the game for all to enjoy. Passionate, eager, and ambitious, I'm here to teach, listen, and learn. LinkedIn

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