I attended an interesting session on greens trueness and measuring that parameter while at the Golf Industry Show. For many years now golfers and superintendents (even though they won't admit) have been closely monitoring green speeds which has become somewhat of an evaluation critique of greens conditions. Fast greens=good; slow greens=bad. That really shouldn't be the end-all measure of a green. In my mind a smooth, uninterrupted, straight-tracking roll of the ball is indicative of a good green. This is referred to as the trueness of the green. But how do you measure such? Doug Linde from Delaware Valley University set out to find a way. One method was simply to observe the ball roll and determine the number of hops and/or snaking action the ball made as it rolled. There were obvious differences from one course to another as expected. The other method of evaluating trueness was using a "putting device" similar to a stimpmeter to roll a ball from eight feet into a hole. In that case 90-100% of the balls rolled "true" into the cup no matter which green they were on. So that measurement could not statistically differentiate between greens like the visual assessment did. Even after greens had been aerated 90% of the balls rolled into the cup with this device proving that a well struck putt will nearly always go into the hole no matter the green condition. For comparison sake the average 10 handicapper will make 27% and the average pro will make over 60% of that same 8 foot putt.
So what do these studies prove? First is that there is a difference in trueness of ball roll easily determined by the naked eye. You have probably noticed that if you have played different courses. We all strive to get that perfect billiard ball roll on a green but it may not happen. However, the second study proved that even if ball roll isn't perfectly smooth, putts can still be consistently holed with the proper stroke.
We have always prided ourselves on having the "truest" greens around and have felt that the golfers appreciated it. The "eye test" certainly is important to the golfers evaluation of greens condition, but what may be more important is that no matter how "untrue" the ball roll appears it is still possible to putt it in the hole. So next time you have to play on aerated greens remember that the most important aspect to making putts is a consistent stroke.