The Local Knowlege

Courses & Travel

To purists who dislike 15-inch cups: marble greens are not pure either

By Geoff Shackelford

Self-described "purists" have been dismissing Hack Golf's push for 15-inch cups. While I admire those who want to protect the integrity of our courses and rules, let's get something straight: The evolution of the modern green into a marble-like surface is not pure. Nor is it healthy. And for most people, super-slick greens are not really that much fun.

Yes, there's a thrill in first stepping up to a green measuring double digits on the Stimpmeter, but that's usually more a sense of awe at seeing how man has tamed turf by being able to mow it so tight and taut. After the first few three-putts or the stressful six-footer -- which could turn into a 20-footer coming back -- the entire exercise becomes tedious and time-consuming. Think of the hours of our lives we've spent watching a group (or sadly being part of one) agonizing over short putts to 4.25-inch holes that play smaller the faster greens get?


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If purists want to see great architecture shine, they have to remember that the faster putting surfaces get, the more the design from tee-to-fringe loses its importance. Too many rounds over-emphasize putting both regarding the overall score and time-spent playing.

This is why I'm fascinated by larger cups. The 4.25-inch size was an arbitrary number reached at Musselburgh after the first cup cutter was invented, and the R&A made it official in 1891. Greens were Stimping about 5 back then. Putting greens were merely a continuation of the fairway. Speeds gradually climbed over the next century until the last decade or so, to a game with a pursuit of speed not just in tournament golf, but in daily setups that view 10+ as essential for Stimpmeter readings. With a manufactured, shockingly distinct surface rolling infinitely faster than ever on nearly all golf courses, the hole has remained the same size.

We've learned that the more man's hand intervenes in golf, the less golfers accept bad breaks or extreme setups. Conversely, the more nature plays a role in our fate, the more we tolerate the madness. Excessive green speeds seem cool but never quite capture our senses because they are artificially propagated. The introduction of a larger cup potentially diffuses the over-importance of green speed in the modern game and could re-invigorate the game for those scared off by excessive short-game difficulty or a scarcity of time.

That's not to say 15-inch cups are the best answer. Moderating green speeds is. But purists should be open to trying a version of golf that restores the putting surface to a more sensible place in the cosmos.

 
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