Explaining a Putting Green's "Stimp" or "Stimp Rating"

Testing a Green
Taking the Stimp rating of a green using the Stimpmeter. Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The "stimp" or "stimp rating" of a putting green is a numerical value that represents how fast the golf ball rolls on the putting surface. Golfers call this rating the green speed. That value is based on a measurement taken with a simple instrument called a Stimpmeter (hence the terms stimp and stimp rating).

When golfers talk about how fast the greens are or the speed of the greens, they are referring to how easily the golf ball rolls across the green and, therefore, how hard they have to putt the ball to reach the hole.

 

Golfers use the term stimp as a noun, a verb or an adjective; for example:

  • "What's the stimp on this green?"
  • "The greens are stimping at 10.5 today."
  • "This green's stimp rating is 11."

The Higher the Stimp Rating, the Faster the Greens

The stimp rating of green is given in the form of a number, which can be a single digit or reach into the lower teens. The key concept is this:

  • The lower the stimp, the slower the greens
  • The higher the stimp, the faster the greens

A green speed of 7 is generally considered very slow and is slower than a green speed of 9 (a moderate speed). A stimp rating of 13 or 14 is considered lightning-fast. Most PGA Tour venues have green speeds of around 12.

How Is the Stimp Number Determined?

The Stimpmeter (read more about its development and uses) looks like a yardstick with a V-shaped track down the middle. It is basically just a small ramp down which golf balls are rolled.

A golf course's superintendent or tournament officials measure green speed by rolling balls down the Stimpmeter onto a flat part of a green.

How far the balls roll determines the stimp rating. If a ball rolls 11 feet after leaving the ramp, that green is stimping at 11. Yes, it really is that simple.

Have Stimp Ratings Changed in Golf Over the Years?

Yes, in general, stimp ratings have gotten higher, meaning the green speeds have gotten faster over the years since the Stimpmeter was invented in the 1930s and since the United States Golf Association adopted the tool for measuring green speeds in the 1970s.

How much speedier the greens are and why it's happened is discussed more in-depth in this article:  How much have green speeds increased in golf?

For example, in 1978 the greens at Augusta National, host course of The Masters, stimped below 8; by 2017, greens speeds at The Masters were typically around 12 or higher, depending on weather conditions. In 1978, the greens at Oakmont, which has been host to the U.S. Open numerous times,  stimped below 10; by 2017, they were 13 or higher.

It was common in the 1960s and earlier for even major championship greens to stimp as low as 5 or 6. Today it is almost unheard of for major championship greens to stimp lower than 11 or 10, unless weather conditions, such as high winds in the British Open, make such speeds unfair or even unplayable.