July is almost here, and in addition to a packed golf calendar, it’s almost time for tennis’s signature event: Wimbledon.
With all the controversy surrounding the putting surfaces at the recent U.S. Open at Shinnecock, where the greens were baked out on Saturday causing players to complain – and the USGA to acknowledge – that the course became unplayable in certain spots, it got us thinking: how fast are those grass courts at Wimbledon?
So, I called an old buddy from high school who happens to be an expert on these things. “I can make a pretty good guess,” says Dan Meersman, Director of Grounds at Philadelphia Cricket Club, and my former teammate on the Schoolcraft, Mich., high school golf team. (Go Eagles!) Meersman led a critically acclaimed restoration of the club’s Wissahickon Course in 2014, and in addition to two 18-hole courses, Philly Cricket features 21 grass tennis courts.
“At Wimbledon, they’re more concerned with firmness, or hardness, instead of speed. So, a stimpmeter reading is not something they would measure,” Meersman says. “But we’ve cut grass to that same height.”
According to the tournament, Wimbledon’s ryegrass courts are cut at 8 mm, or 5/16 of an inch, which they find is optimum for both uniform bounces and a chance to survive two weeks of play. (Although every year it seems Centre Court is more or less burned out when tournament reaches the final weekend. Mike Davis knows the feeling.)
Meersman’s Wimbledon stimpmeter estimate? 6.5.
“Probably at least a 6, and maybe a max of 7,” he says.
So while you might struggle to hole a putt at a U.S. Open, where the greens can run as fast as 15, or at Augusta National, where they reportedly average about 12.5, perhaps the grass at the All England Club is more your speed.