[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A method has been developed to measure the phase velocity of laser generated and detected surface acoustic waves. An optical grating produced by an electronically addressable spatial light modulator (SLM) was imaged onto the sample surface to generate surface acoustic waves whose frequency and wavefront was controlled by the SLM. When the grating period matched the surface acoustic wavelength, the surface wave was strongly excited, thus the wavelength and, thereby the phase velocity was determined. We present results with this method that allows the phase velocity and the angular dispersion of the generalized surface wave as well as the pseudo-surface wave on the (100) nickel to be measured. Measurements on (111) silicon single crystals are also presented. The measurement precision is approximately 0.2%. Methods to further improve the measurement precision are also discussed.