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Green Madness


I am sure the players at the U.S. Open have some wonderful things to say about No. 14 green at Pebble. I think it was unfair and created some questions about course setup at this major championship.  What do you have to say?
– Richard, WA   


I too am sure that many players have some choice thoughts about the 14th green at the U.S. Open last week.

I don’t know that this green was unfair but do know that with the green speeds the way they were – very fast – it decreases the number of potential hole locations to only a couple, and in this case maybe one very small zone.

An angle of slope, where the ball will keep rolling without slowing down or speeding up is called, the limiting angle of repose. This angle is directly related to the speed of the green – the resistance to rolling friction. This angle (slope) will be steeper for slow greens and flatter for fast greens. In the case at hand and specifically for the speed of the green, the angle of repose had been exceeded by a number of degrees for all the front and middle right section of this the 14th green.

A responsible architect would not design a green where the slope is such that a reasonably good shot would roll completely off the green and behind a bunker. But the architect is not responsible for controlling the green speeds or the shape where the green perimeter is cut.

The green speed at the U.S. Open was, and should be relatively similar over the entire course, that is why I redesigned Eddie Stimpson’s concept and introduced the “Stimpmeter” in 1977. We needed to quantify the speed of greens and make sure they were all consistent. This includes the practice green, allowing the golfers to calibrate themselves  – regarding the green speed that day – before the round.

I do think this situation was unfortunate at the US Open Championship because it certainly rewarded only perfectly executed shots but dramatically penalized some of the good to mediocre ones. This was just one of those very tough decisions in course set up, and with 20/20 hindsight we recognize it was   a slight misjudgment. It did not however take away from the fact that we have a great champion.

Congratulations to Graeme McDowell.

– Frank


Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf. Thomas is chief technical advisor to He served as technical director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN system and introduced the Stimpmeter. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email