Science of Golf: kinematics

How can a patch of grass be described as fast or slow? It’s certainly not going anywhere! For those of you whose closest look at a golf green is from the car window as you’re driving by, the speed of a green refers to how fast or slow a ball will roll on the green, the area of very short grass that contains the target hole. When your ball lands on a level slow green, a mighty rap might be required to get the ball to the hole. But on a level fast green, that same mighty rap could send the ball back off the green and into a sand trap!

Many factors determine the speed with which a ball will roll on the green, such as the length of grass and the direction in which the grass is growing and the wetness of the surface and underlying soil. Before they ever step on the first tee, both casual and serious golfers would like to know how fast the ball is going to roll on the green with a rap of a given force on that particular day. And they can, because of a simple measuring tool called the Stimpmeter®, which is described in Science of Golf: Kinematics.

This installment of the Science of Golf series, produced by NBC Learn in partnership with the United States Golf Association (USGA) and Chevron, is one of ten that highlights the science, technology, engineering, and math behind the sport. The companion NSTA-developed lesson plans help you use the sport to convey science concepts in an engaging, hands-on way. The videos are available cost-free on

Download the lesson plans and use them as a base for your particular situation. If something works well (or not!) with your students, leave a comment and let us know.

–Judy Elgin Jensen

Image of green at the Tierra Rejada Golf Club in Moorpark, California courtesy of Dan Perry.


SOG: Kinematics discusses the importance of putting, the use of a device called a Stimpmeter® for determining the speed of a green, and how a branch of physics called kinematics applies to the use of this device.

STEM Lesson Plan—Adaptable for Grades 7–12

The lesson plan provides ideas for STEM exploration plus strategies to support students in their own quest for answers and as well as a more focused approach that helps all students participate in hands-on inquiry.

The SOG: Kinematics lesson plan models how students can investigate a question about how one might design a system for determining the speed of greens in golf.

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