Why this Winged Foot green is slower than all the rest

Winged Foot's 1st green is not for the faint of heart.

Christian Hafer

Winged Foot’s rough nabbed most of the headlines coming into the week, but the green complexes might be the most difficult aspect of the A.W. Tllinghast design. With severe slopes, numerous false fronts and gym-floor like speeds, these greens are no joke. In fact, the Winged Foot greens have such difficult contours that it led Justin Thomas to make a telling proclamation coming into the week.

“It is hard to tell on TV,” Thomas said of the slope of the greens. “The viewers at home are going to see some pretty bizarre stuff and probably a lot of putts and chips that make us look pretty bad.”

And while all the greens at Winged Foot are daunting, the 1st might be the most diabolical. The greens breaks severely from front to back, and has number of other slopes and ridges that make getting a shot close to the hole nearly impossible. Nice way to get your round started, eh?

The 1st green is so severe that the USGA actually has to make it slower than the rest of the greens on the course to keep it fair. On Thursday, 17 of the greens were single cut and rolled before the round in order to get them Stimping in the upper 12s. The 1st enjoyed no such haircut, which “due to the unique contours of the green, is being maintained to a slower green speed.”

But as difficult as it is now, it used to be even more punishing. Before Gil Hanse’s renovation of the course, the 1st had even fewer available hole locations than it does now. The renovation helped give the USGA more options, though it still has plenty of teeth.

“Traditionally, No. 1 is the most difficult green on the golf course,” Hanse said. “Welcome to Winged Foot, indeed. In the past, because of its contours, they’ve had to keep the green slower on the Stimpmeter. For our work, we looked at a lot of old photos of the green to restore ridges and ‘flat spots’ so we could find a few more hole locations.”

It can be difficult to spot these slopes on the greens on TV, but pay attention closely to the 1st this week and you’ll quickly gain an appreciation for the challenge players face as they get their rounds started.

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Zephyr Melton

Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF.com, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf.