Why do Japanese golf courses have two greens on every hole?
During Monday’s Japan Skins, the high-powered foursome of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama and Jason Day were presented with a challenge at the fourth hole: Play to the left green or the right green — dealer’s choice. Woods took aim at the right green but misfired, hitting a pull that ended up directly between the right and left greens.
“That was such a bad shot,” he said, exasperated but trying to stay light-hearted on the broadcast. “I tried to hit a cut and pull-hooked it!”
Up near the green, he adjusted his plan, chipping instead to the left green, where he rolled in a putt for par.
It’s not rare for a course to feature a hole with an alternate green. No. 8 at Pine Valley, No. 13 at Streamsong Black and No. 4 at Cabot Cliffs are three high-profile examples. But many courses in Japan, including this week’s Zozo Championship host course, Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club, have two such greens on every single hole.
The two-green system originated from a desire to keep greens playable across different seasons. Because Japan has hot, humid summers and cold winters, they could use a different grass type on each green to allow for options based on the weather. Tyler Pringle of American Golf notes that summer greens would typically feature bermuda or zoysia, while the winter greens would favor bent grass.
Advancements in turf management mean that two greens with two different grass types has become less necessary at many courses. Still, many in Japan and some others in South Korea maintain two greens on every single hole. There are benefits to having double the greens, of course. Twice as many putting surfaces means half as much wear and tear. It means no need to reduce greens fees for aeration periods. It also frees up one green per hole for required renovation or maintenance, and it provides some variety for course regulars.
All 18 holes at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club have two greens, a common practice in Japan. pic.twitter.com/j1BJxDGF0y
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 23, 2019
There are also drawbacks, of course — twice as many greens means twice as much maintenance, which means increased budgets and transfers indirectly to more expensive golf. Still, the dual green phenomenon is something different. This week, Zozo Championship competitors will see action on both the left and right greens at No. 4, though not at the same time like in the skins game. Collin Morikawa, for one, was amused by the dual greens. “I don’t know a place that has two greens unless you’re playing soccer golf,” he said. You can see more examples of the double-greens below.
Schy was supportive of the experiment, so a set of old clubs was chopped up in the name of science. Into some old Nike VR heads they inserted 37.5-inch shafts, which is the length of a traditional 6-iron. In any set, the heads of the wedges are heavier than those of the slender long irons. After running a series of calculations in the supercomputer that doubles as his brain, DeChambeau determined that an ideal uniform weight for the heads in a single-length set would be 282 grams. Lead tape was used to make the heads on the longer irons heavier; the extra mass made up for a shorter swing arc. To shed weight on the wedges, holes were drilled in the back of the head and metal was gouged out of the backline of the sole; losing that mass was counteracted by the increased swing speed that came with the longer shaft.
DeChambeau flushed the shot. “It was in the air for what felt like forever,” he says. The suspense was awful. Was the ball going to be 20 yards short? Twenty yards long? It landed three feet from the flag.
Less than a decade later, single-length irons are a rapidly growing part of the equipment market. DeChambeau didn’t invent the concept—Tommy Armour Golf tried (and failed spectacularly) to sell a version in the 1980s—but he is now the public face of a fundamentally different way of playing the game. He has had some help along the way. While an undergrad at SMU, DeChambeau became close to David Edel, a fellow obsessive whose Texas-based boutique company has long turned out some of the most gorgeous (and expensive) putters and irons on the market. Edel spent years perfecting the single-length clubs that DeChambeau used to win the 2015 U.S. Amateur and NCAA title, going through three dozen handcrafted sets. From the beginning, Edel could feel a revolution brewing that transcended DeChambeau’s idiosyncrasies.
“One of the hardest things for amateurs is to consistently produce a good strike with their irons,” says Edel. “On every swing the club feels different, because it is. With a wedge you have to squat down and stand close to the ball, and it’s a short, heavy club. With a long iron you’re more upright, the ball is farther away, and the club is long and light. No wonder people struggle! Eliminating all of those variables automatically makes the game easier. That is the holy grail of golf equipment, and we found it.”