Five different ways to measure smoothness and trueness of golf ball roll on putting greens

When Cam Shaw wrote with a question about measuring smoothness and trueness, he mentioned that he’d searched my blog and didn’t find anything. “Wow,” I thought, “have I really written nothing about this?” And when I searched, I didn’t find much. This topic seems ideally suited for a video, because I happen to have a few illustrative clips of some of these measuring tools.

Here’s a video I put together explaining five methods to measure the quality of the ball roll which is distinct from the distance the ball rolls. You’ll find that I explain thoroughly why, out of these five possible methods, I use and recommend the bobble test.


I put a lot of links in the description of the video on YouTube—to the Parry Meter in action and to all the articles I mentioned.

Now for a philosophical note about this. Last year I made a video about eight things I recommend measuring. One of those was surface performance: the video is queued up at that section here. I mentioned the bobble test but said that stimpmeter measurements are probably enough for most facilities.

That statement is true if the ball roll is smooth and true. But what I’ve noticed is that some places are measuring green speed with the ball snaking but they don’t seem to notice it. I talked to a golf professional a few months ago who told me the greens were rolling pretty good but there was something a bit off with them. He couldn’t quite describe it. The speed was fine, he said, but the roll wasn’t as good as it had been in the past.

When I measured the greens, the speed was more than 10 feet, but the bobble test was 6. The ball was rolling a suitable distance, but it chattered as it did so, there were occasional bobbles, and there was snaking especially at the end of the roll.

I’ve often assumed that when such imperfections in the roll are noticed through putting, or through observation of how the ball rolls from the stimpmeter, then maintenance work will be done to eliminate those imperfections. But as I’ve paid more attention to this over the past year, especially, I’ve noticed that some people are making a stimpmeter measurement and seem to miss the chatter and snaking right in front of their eyes. When greens are intensively maintained, and in fine condition, there should be none of that. And I guess I just assumed that everyone was paying attention to it. That’s why I didn’t think it was essential for everyone to use the bobble test.

But you might try it out, to confirm that your greens are at an 8 or 9 or 10. And to measure the amount of time any disruptive maintenance work, or Poa annua seedheads, or zoysia in your bermuda, or bermuda in your paspalum, or goosegrass in your bentgrass, or whatever, are reducing the trueness and smoothness from what they should be.

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