What’s your living room mea­sure on the Stimp?

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents 6/15 - ByDavidOwen

PGA Tour green speeds have noth­ing on my car­pet.

Nearly ev­ery room in my house is too fast to host a PGA Tour event.

One of the great­est things about my house, which was built in 1790 and moved to its cur­rent lo­ca­tion on the back of a truck 180 years later, is that it con­tains very few level sur­faces. The room I used to use as my of­fice has a car­peted floor that slopes from end to end and sags on the di­ag­o­nal. When my work got bor­ing, I could prac­tise any kind of putt: right-break­ing, left-break­ing, up­hill, down­hill, side­hill, what­ever. My living-room floor is less se­vere, but it’s big­ger and more un­du­lat­ing. The rug is an old Ori­en­tal that be­longed to my grand­par­ents, and if you move a cou­ple of chairs you have a putt that might fool a tour pro: a bowl-shape dou­ble-breaker from the pi­ano to the near­est leg of a pie-crust ta­ble that my wife and I got as a wed­ding present.

I’ve of­ten won­dered how the floors in my house com­pare with the greens on real golf cour­ses. Re­cently, my club’s su­per­in­ten­dent lent me his Stimp­me­ter, the of­fi­cial USGA tool for mea­sur­ing green speed. It’s a 90-cen­time­tre-long ex­truded-alu­minium bar, with a shal­low, V-shape trough run­ning down the cen­tre. You find a level putting sur­face about four me­tres across, place a ball in a notch near one end of the bar, then slowly lift that end un­til the ball be­gins to roll. You do that in both di­rec­tions, and the speed of the green is the av­er­age run-out, in feet and inches. For nor­mal golf cour­ses nowa­days, read­ings of 9 or 10 are con­sid­ered fast, and greens at ma­jor tour­na­ments are prob­a­bly 12 or higher.

I’d al­ways as­sumed that al­most any or­di­nary res­i­den­tial rug or car­pet would be slower than al­most any real green, so I was amazed to find that nearly ev­ery room in my house is too fast to host a PGA Tour event. My living-room rug mea­sured al­most 15, and the car­pet in our base­ment – a su­per-cheap ny­lon level-loop pile, in­stalled over con­crete on a 2cm foam pad – was over 20. Back in the 1990s, Paul Stankowski said he had prac­tised for the Masters by putting on the floor of his garage, but prob­a­bly my living room, or his, would have been more re­al­is­tic.

I took my Stimp­me­ter to a car­pet and floor­ing store. The owner, Joe Welch, had re­cently re­turned from a golf trip, and when I told him I was look­ing for a house­hold car­pet that would putt real­is­ti­cally he took me down to the base­ment. He un­rolled a long rem­nant of a light­weight cut­pile, in which the yarns were fairly long and the weave was fairly loose. The Stimp­me­ter read­ing on that one was only 5 – which, be­lieve it or not, is roughly what or­di­nary golf cour­ses av­er­aged as re­cently as the 1970s. Then we tried a sim­i­lar but denser car­pet, with a much shorter pile – the kind you might glue down on an of­fice floor. That piece was four me­tres wide, and my test balls all rolled to the op­po­site edge, mean­ing that it was suit­able for ma­jor-tour­na­ment prac­tice, pos­si­bly, but too fast for nor­mal play. “But you don’t re­ally want to be putting on this stuff,” Welch said, “be­cause it’s not true, right?” Maybe not – although ear­lier that day I’d had ex­tremely promis­ing re­sults in my son’s old bed­room, on a nice dense Sax­ony with a lit­tle depth to it (about 9-6).

Welch sug­gested that I visit Paul Ramee, a cus­tomer of his, who owns an in­door teach­ing cen­tre. Ramee’s back room has a syn­thetic-grass putting sur­face, with sub­tle breaks and six cups, in­stalled by Pro Putt Sys­tems. It’s de­signed to roll at 10-6. I tested it and de­cided it was more like 11-6. “Foot traf­fic speeds it up,” Ramee said, “and when that hap­pens I can take it back down by vac­u­um­ing it.”

The large front room, where Ramee gives full-swing lessons, is car­peted with les­s­ex­pen­sive fake grass, man­u­fac­tured by a floor-cov­er­ing com­pany and in­stalled by Welch. Ramee doesn’t use it for putting, but I tested it any­way. It mea­sured a lit­tle over 9 – and it putted quite nicely, too, es­pe­cially where peo­ple had been walk­ing. “Wow,” I said. “You could car­pet a whole base­ment with this.”

“I’ve thought about that,” Ramee said. “But my wife would never let me.”

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