I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but golfers love acronyms. PGA, R&A, LET, USPGA, IGF, Q School – they’re all part of the golfing landscape.


However, most aren’t relevant to the club golfer and you won’t encounter them, on the course at home.


But that’s not the case with USGA greens. Every now and then you’ll visit a course and they’ll proclaim that there’s USGA greens.


But what does that mean?


Here at National Club Golfer, we’re the publication for the everyday player and so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to give you a step-by-step introduction to the wonderful world of the golfing lexicon.

Phrase: USGA Greens


Pronunciation: /yew-ess-gee-ay É¡riËns/
‘For more than 40 years, USGA greens have been the most widely-used method of green construction throughout the world’ What I think it means:


There must be an industry standard across greens that allows them to be compared and rated, from things such as size, shape, stimp-rating – all those things that come together to make a green good.


The USGA, therefore, must be the organization that rates these greens.


I’m not sure about the last two letters, but whenever you see ’US’ you can be fairly certain of who it’s referring to.


But why do we care what the Americans think about our greens? Isn’t there a UK organization that administers such things?

And how do they do it exactly? Do the USGA send out a representative to each and every club that applies for their rating, or do clubs themselves judge their greens?


I think it’s worth finding out.


Dictionary definition:


’For more than 40 years the United States Golf Association recommendations have been the most widely-used method of green construction throughout the United States and in other parts of the world.’ – USGA website





The USGA provide a lot of info about the origins of their greens section.


The story begins in Ohio in 1920, when an attorney and green committee chairman named E.J. Marshall was working to prepare his course, the Inverness Club in Toledo, for the US Open.


Marshall was on the lookout for information about how best to prepare the course. He approached the USGA and the United States Department of Agriculture and the two organisations agreed to collaborate – forming the USGA Green Section.


Then the story of the USGA ’green’ began post-World War II when soil laboratories began to investigate the scientific differences between ’good’ and ’poor’ greens. After a decade of research, the USGA Green Section published a study entitled Specifications for a Method of Putting Green Construction, which could be used to construct greens anywhere in the world.


Use it in a sentence:


“The club has invested heavily in USGA-standard greens.”



What this actually means:


Here’s a bit of a summary of the guidelines, so the next time you’re on the greens you can astound your playing partners with your knowledge.
Looking at this list, I had no idea that USGA greens had such tight specifications – the sub-soil layers and drainage are things you just don’t think about as a layman walking around a green, trying to work out which way your putt is going to break.
If you really want to take a closer look at USGA greens, click HERE.

So without further ado, the primary aspects of USGA greens, from bottom to top:


1.   The Subgrade: The natural layer of soil should be approximately 16 inches (40cm) below the proposed surface grade. If that layer is unstable, such as with expanding clay or soil, a geotextile fabric may be used as a barrier.
2.   Drainage: a subsurface drainage system is required.


3. A layer of clean, crushed stone or gravel to a minimum of four inches, covering the entire subgrade.
4.   Now we’re at the ’root zone’ of the soil – the bit where the roots of the grass live – and you have no idea how technical that is. For example, if soil is used in the root zone mix, it will have a minimum sand content of 60% and a clay content of 5% to 20%. Oh, and it should be mixed off site.


5.   Top mix covering, placement, smoothing and firming: After the root zone material is mixed, it needs to be placed over the gravel layer to a uniform depth of 12 inches.

6. Seed bed preparation: The root zone mix may need to be sterilised

7.   Fertilisation


Here I am, thinking a green is just a circle of grass mown shorter than the rest of the course.


Taking all these into account, there’s no wonder any project to renovate or restructure greens is a huge undertaking.


So there we go – not the funniest installment of golfing glossary, but I hope we’ve all learned something today people!


If you do want a giggle, check out last week’s golfing glossary, when we discovered the meaning of the phrase ’outside agency’. You can read all about it be clicking here.