What is a Stimpmeter?
Golf Digest joins writer David Owen as he explores the mystical golf device known as the Stimpmeter. What is it? How did it come to be? David will explore these questions and more in this tongue-in-cheek documentary.
Released on 11/16/2016
[Narrator] My name is David Owen.
I'm a writer but I spend most
of my time thinking about golf,
either playing it or watching it on TV.
TV commentators are always talking
about how fast the greens are on the courses
that the tour players play.
[Commentator] We heard this morning
the green is running at almost 14 on the stimpmeter.
[Man] That's ridiculous!
[Narrator] Then recently I got to wondering
exactly how fast are the greens
on the course where I play most of my golf.
If you watch any golf on TV, you hear commentators
and tour players talking about stimpmeters.
So what is a stimpmeter?
In 1935 Edward Stimpson invented
an easy way to measure green speed,
I'd never actually seen one though
until I borrowed this one from my superintendent.
It's a three-foot long extruded aluminum bar
with a little trough that runs down the center.
There's a notch up here, you place a golf ball in it,
set this end on the putting surface,
then you slowly lift this end until gravity makes
the ball fall out of the notch,
and then you measure how far it rolls across the green.
[Narrator] You do that three times,
and you measure the average distance that the ball rolls,
then you turn around and do it three times
in the other direction.
Then you measure the average distance
that the ball rolls that way.
And then you combine the two numbers
and divide them by two, and that's the putting speed
of the green.
But like most golfers I don't do most
of my practicing on a golf course.
So I'm going to take this stimpmeter
and measure some of the surfaces
where I really do most of my putting.
[Narrator] This is my house.
It was built in about 1790, and one of the great things
about it is that it contains no level surfaces.
The floor of my living room not only slopes
from end to end but also sags on the diagonal.
This rug belonged to my grandparents.
I played on it a lot when I was a little kid
so I know where all the breaks are.
The first thing you see when you come
in my house is this hallway.
It's a good place to putt because it's got lots of break.
This is the dining room.
We got rid of the dining room table
because we never eat in here.
We replaced it with a pool table,
and now we never play pool in here.
We used to have two dachshunds and to them the legs
of the pool table looked like fire hydrants.
[Narrator] The kitchen is a good place
to practice putting because it's close to the fridge.
The porch is a little more realistic
because it's almost outside, like a real golf course.
And that got me to thinking.
[Narrator] There are a lot of other potential
putting surfaces in the world.
Why not test those?
The first place I tried was right
outside my door in my front yard.
I've taken thousands of divots out here, but sad to say,
it's not a very good surface for putting.
There's a big school next door
and it has an artificial turf field.
From a distance it looks so smooth
that you'd think it would be great to putt on
but it's not actually all that much better than my yard.
The school has tennis courts too.
They putt great, but they're crowded.
So I found a place that wasn't crowded at all.
This big empty parking lot.
It's easy to measure because the spaces are
exactly nine feet wide.
But it's just not a very good putting surface.
Luckily though, there's a bowling alley
right next to this parking lot.
My golf buddies and I used to go bowling
during the winter when our course was closed.
But we never actually tried playing golf there.
The lanes are too fast.
But the carpet is great.
And that got me thinking that maybe
I should go carpet shopping.
A carpet store is an amazing place.
All these potential putting surfaces
just hanging from the wall.
I tried out dozens of different kinds.
Even a carpet that's really good for putting has to be
Then in a line of rolled up samples
against the wall, I found the perfect putting surface.
I don't love the pattern but the speed is great.
[Narrator] Thanks to Edward Stimpson
and my stimpmeter, I found the perfect carpet.
This would look good in my yard, too.
And I wouldn't have to mow it.