Golf Course Architecture - Issue 73, July 2023

42 GREEN SPEED not as large as Ross’s originals. This is obviously because green speeds were significantly slower back then and there had to be a happy medium between restoring the complexity of the greens and the members’ desire for smooth and fast surfaces. The discussion was never about faster greens equals better greens. The discussion was always about finding the happy medium between green speeds and enjoying the complexity of the Ross putting surfaces. I don’t think that most members would have any idea what the daily green speeds actually are. That said, from a professional point of view, average speeds around 10 for daily play or 11 for special events would be ideal. The maximum slope in pinning areas is three per cent, so quite high by today’s standards, but not crazy.” “Pre-construction convos with clients are necessary. I’ve given thought to putting speed limits on greens in my contracts,” says Bowman. “There are arguments that work. Pace of play is important, especially at resorts and public golf courses. Fast greens mean slower play. But at high-end private facilities, sensible greens speeds are a tough sell, because fast greens are seen as a status symbol.” Lewis reckons that Belleair is not much different in this regard. “I think every club has this issue, and it is a matter of education,” he says. “Personally, I would argue that good greens are those that make you use your imagination and that the faster the green rolls, the less slope you can have and the less interesting the putting becomes. I guess it comes down to what is more interesting, distance control or green reading? As you can probably tell, I prefer green reading. My daughter Madeline only started playing golf a couple of years ago and she has a talent for the game. She called me during her first round on the restored West course. I asked her what she thought of the greens, worried she would hate them. Her response was, ‘Dad, they are really tough but that makes them so much more fun to play’. I have never been prouder of her – she got it.” Belleair’s membership, says Lewis, is fairly well bought in to the new approach and the new greens. “It is still early, but I haven’t heard many people complain,” he explains. “When I do hear a complaint, I usually respond that we, as members, have one of the greatest home field advantages. There are quite a few putts that will break over 30 feet! As a golf historian I believe that faster green speeds make for uninspiring greens. If you take a Photo: V Halyard, StoryLounge Films Following Fry/Straka's Ross-inspired restoration, which has seen original slopes and features restored, Belleair now keeps its greens at under 11 feet on the Stimp “ We have dumbed down golf greens to the lowest common denominator – speed”