There are several factors leading to unfavorable conditions on the green, some of which are natural causes, and many are man-made or self-inflicted. Those outside of the golfers control include height of the grass, dampness and wear, and fungus that may affect the soil and health of the surface.
Golfers themselves cause most damage to the greens which leave it in less than ideal condition.
- Unrepaired Divots
When your approach shot lands on the green it generally makes a mark, or divot. The divot will make an indent in the surface so that it is not smooth. Consider every golfer who comes through on the same green, and all of their ball marks, it will result in numerous divots all over the putting surface. A general rule of thumb is to always repair your divot, and then repair one more. You may want to carry a divot repair tool in your pocket so that you have it always available.
- Spike Marks
Golfers account for most traffic to cross the putting surface and it can wear down the grass to the point it changes how a putt will roll. Take care when on the green not to drag your feet as you’re walking. Metal spikes have potential to cause the most damage, but rubber or spikeless shoes can also leave scars on the green and indents in the grass which contribute to an inferior putting surface.
- Damaged Cup
When golfers putt out and finish the hole they are generally already thinking about the next one. Most players don’t put much thought into replacing the flag stick carefully in the hole. More often than not, the flagstick hits the edge of the cup on the way down, causing damage to the hole and rounded edges that may change the way your ball falls into the cup. If you do note a damaged cup, take a moment to straighten it up for the next group through or notify the course marshall to attend to it.
One other major factor in health of the greens is aerification, or aeration, or plugging the greens. This is general maintenance performed once a year generally in summer or fall. It involves poking small holes in the green, and often removing small cores of dirt so the soil can breathe and regenerate. The result may look like the green has dimples, which sometimes are sanded, making conditions for putting nearly unplayable. As a golfer, just know the inconvenience is only temporary, and necessary to maintain the quality of the grass.