USGA, R&A Cave To Players On Green-Reading Books

The supposed ban on green-reading books will not be so limiting for players when the USGA and R&A’s new rules go into effect in January of 2019. 

On Monday, the governing bodies finalized the limitations of the green-reading aids, seemingly coming off the stance they took towards the end of July that would severely limit the information available to players in their respective pockets. 

“Following a six-week feedback period, the USGA and R&A have finalized the limits on the use of green-reading materials in golf, which take effect on Jan. 1, 2019,” the USGA’s statement reads. “The new interpretation of Rule 4.3 (Use of Equipment) reaffirms the governing bodies’ view that the ability of golfers to read greens using their own judgment is an essential skill that should be maintained, and defines how such materials may be used.”

The new rule enforces “limits the size and scale of detailed putting-green maps and any similar electronic or digital materials that a player may use,” but not the contents of those diagrams as previously described. It will not limit the use of notes, so long as they are written by the player of caddie. 

“We had a number of really good conversations with tour players, caddies, developers, college coaches about how this information was used, and I would say it was one of the more challenging problems we faced,” Thomas Pagel, USGA senior managing director of governance told “But I think what we’ve done here is put in place some effective guard rails around where we are now that prevents these materials from getting any more detailed in the future.”

The new rule seems to have softened considerably given what Pagel said prior to the review period. 

“Basically, the books are giving them a recommended line, and that goes too far. The skill of reading a green was diminishing, quickly going away. And we wanted to make sure it was retained,” he said at the time. 

The end result was a rule that came down to enforcement and historical context.

“First, we know the ability to take notes has been part of the game for a very long time, and we did not want to get away from that,” Pagel said on Monday. “I also heard loud and clear about the challenge of enforcing the rule. Players were asking, ‘How do I know if my notes are OK?’ and ‘How do I know if the notes another player has on the other side of the fairway are OK?'”

No magnification is allowed beyond typical prescription lenses, so Pagel said that the ability to write down enough content in the book to become advantageous should be taken care of by the dimensional restrictions.

“They can put as much detail as they like in the book, but there’s only so much information you can get in there, given the size of the grid,” Pagel said. We know where we are with this technology, and we understand where the intersection is between this technology and the way the game should be played.

“We will be keeping our eyes on these things, and we need to be prepared to see where we are in the future.”