What is a stimpmeter and how does it work?

A stimpmeter is a simple device which greenkeepers use to maintain a consistent pace of all the greens across the course

stimpmeter
(Image credit: Getty Images)

What is a stimpmeter?
A stimpmeter is a device used to measure the speed of putting surfaces. It was originally invented by Edward S. Stimpson in the 1930s. His version was made of wood and was in effect simply a chute down which a golf ball would roll onto the putting surface. The design has been updated and modern stimpmeters are made of aluminium.

The stimpmeter is 36 inches long and has a V-shaped chute down which a golf ball can roll. It has two notches in it on which can rest a ball. One of these is 30 inches from the tapered end that rests on the ground, and the other is 14 inches from the end.

How does it work?
After a flat area of the green has been selected, a golf ball is placed on the notch which is 30 inches from the end – also known as the 1X notch – and that end of the stimpmeter is slowly lifted up, with the other end still resting on the green, until the ball rolls down the chute and across the green.

How far the ball has rolled from the end of the stimpmeter is then measured. This process is repeated three times and, so long as each reading is within eight inches of one another, the average of these three becomes one of the two measurements that will be used.

Then the process is repeated but with the start point now being the average point of where the three balls ended up and the chute is pointed to roll the ball back in the exact opposite direction to the three previous rolls. This means that any slight slopes in the green, or the effect of the grain, will be balanced out.

If the three readings are not within 8 inches of each other the process has to be repeated. If the trio still fail to accord with one another, it may be that that section of the green is sloping too much. If another suitable area of flat green cannot be found it may be necessary to use the other notch, 14 inches up the stimpmeter – the 2X position – so that the ball rolls less far. In this case when you have determined the average of the three rolls, this average is then doubled.

The average roll going in one direction is then added to the average roll in the opposite direction and this total is divided by two. This final figure, measured in feet, is the stimpmeter reading.

How does one interpret the readings?
Golf clubs aim to have consistent reading across all their greens, and this typically would be aimed at being around 9 or 10, as that is judged neither too fast nor too slow for the perfect green for the club golfer. For professional tournaments the greens are normally made slicker and quicker, and stimpmeter readings can reach 13 or more. However the most appropriate green speed depends upon the course, in particular how contoured the greens and also how exposed they are to the wind.

Contributing Writer Golf courses and travel are Roderick’s particular interests and he worked as contributing editor for the first few years of the Golf Monthly Travel Supplement. He writes travel articles and general features for the magazine, travel supplement and website. He is a member of Trevose Golf & Country Club and has played golf in around 20 countries. Cricket is his other main sporting love. He is the author of five books, four of which are still in print: The Novel Life of PG Wodehouse; The Don: Beyond Boundaries; Wally Hammond: Gentleman & Player and England’s Greatest Post-War All Rounder.