The use of green-reading materials is slated to be regulated beginning in 2019, the U.S. Golf Association and R&A jointly announced Tuesday.
The news, first reported by Golfweek two weeks ago at the British Open, comes as the governing bodies stress the need for a golfer to read greens based on their own judgment, skill and ability.
There will be a six-week period for feedback and consultation that ends Sept. 14, the USGA said, and the regulations will be finalized in a published “interpretation” of Rule 4.3 (Use of Equipment) and adopted Jan. 1, 2019, when golf’s new rules take effect. The governing bodies will issue the regulation by no later than Oct. 15, 2018.
“Both the USGA and The R&A are committed to the position that a player’s ability to read their line of play on the putting green is an essential skill that should be retained,” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director for rules of golf and amateur status. “The focus of the interpretation is to develop an approach that is both effective and enforceable.”
Added David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance: “We have looked carefully at the use of these green-reading materials and the extremely detailed information they provide and our view is that they tip the balance too far away from the essential skill and judgment required to read subtle slopes on the greens. It is important to be clear, however, that we still regard the use of yardage books and handwritten notes to be an entirely appropriate part of the game.”
Via the USGA release, the key elements of the proposed interpretation are as follows:
Minimum Slope Indication Limit: A minimum slope indication limit of 4 percent (2.29 degrees) is proposed (this includes lines, arrows, numbers or any other indicators); this will have the effect of eliminating such indicators of slope from those areas of the putting green where the hole is most likely to be positioned (which tend to be cut on reasonably flat sections of the putting green with a degree of slope of less than 3.5 percent – or 2 degrees). This proposed limit also equates roughly with the amount of slope that is readily visible to the naked eye.
Maximum Scale Limit: A maximum scale of 3/8 inch to 5 yards (1:480) is proposed; this will limit the size in print form to a pocket-sized publication and has the effect of restricting the space for handwritten notes (also referenced below).
Indicative Information: General information that is included in traditional yardage books or course guides, such as basic illustrations that show the outline of the putting green and include indicative information like the tops of ridges or general slopes, will continue to be permitted.
Handwritten Notes: Handwritten notes will continue to be allowed, but such notes cannot be used to create either a direct copy or a facsimile (replica) of a detailed green map.