Stimpmeter…what is it & how does it work

The Stimpmeter is a device used to measure the speed of a golf course putting green by applying a known force to a golf ball and measuring the distance traveled in feet.

It was designed by golfer Edward S. Stimpson, Sr. in 1935.[1] The Massachusetts state amateur champion and Harvard golf team captain, Stimpson was a spectator at the 1935 U.S. Open at Oakmont near Pittsburgh, where the winning score was 299 (+11). After witnessing a putt by a top professional (Gene Sarazen) roll off a green, Stimpson was convinced the greens were unreasonably fast, but wondered how he could prove it. He developed a device, made of wood, now known as the Stimpmeter, which is an angled track that releases a ball at a known velocity so that the distance it rolls on a green’s surface can be measured.[2]

In 1976 it was redesigned from aluminum by Frank Thomas of the United States Golf Association (USGA). It was first used by the USGA during the 1976 U.S. Open at Atlanta and made available to golf course superintendents in 1978. The 1976 version is painted green.

In January 2013, the USGA announced a third generation device based on work by Steven Quintavalla, a senior research engineer at the USGA labs.[3] A second hole in this version enables the option of a shorter run-out.[3] This version is painted blue, and is manufactured to a higher engineering tolerance to improve accuracy and precision.[3]

Official USGA stimpmeters are not sold to the public.


The USGA stimpmetered putting greens across the country to produce the following recommendations:[1]

 Speed Length
Slow  4.5 feet (1.4 m)
Medium  6.5 feet (2.0 m)
Fast  8.5 feet (2.6 m)

For the U.S. Open, they recommend:[1]

 Speed Length
Slow  6.5 feet (2.0 m)
Medium  8.5 feet (2.6 m)
Fast  10.5 feet (3.2 m)