With the myriad of rules being amended, changed or removed in the upcoming edition of the Rules of Golf, the USGA and R&A have intimated to many and perhaps already outright told others that the green-reading books that so many in professional golf have come to rely upon will be severely restricted as of January 2019.
Golfweek.com’s Geoff Shackelford reported that “three golf industry rules experts” confirmed the rollback of the green-reading books, but spoke on the condition of anonymity because both the USGA and R&A have no released the findings of their investigation into the books’ usage.
— Geoff Shackelford (@GeoffShac) July 19, 2018
“We announced last year that we were reviewing green-reading materials and expect to be able to give a further update in the coming weeks,” an R&A spokesman told Golfweek.com. “We believe that the ability to read greens is an integral part of the skill of putting and remain concerned about the rapid development of increasingly detailed materials that players are using to help with reading greens during a round.”
The USGA reiterated their sister organizations coy response saying, “We haven’t made any public announcements on Green Reading Materials since our joint announcement with The R&A last year, but we do plan an update on our review process in the coming weeks. It’s simply too premature to discuss, but we promise to keep everyone informed as we move forward.”
While nothing has been made official to the public, Jordan Spieth intimated that pros have either been told or expect a rollback of the books to take place next year.
“I don’t think we’re allowed to use them starting next year, is that right?” Spieth said. “Which I think will be much better for me. I think that’s a skill that I have in green reading that’s advantageous versus the field, and so it will be nice. But while it’s there, certain putts, I certainly was using it and listening to it.”
The basis for the ruling is expected to be a skill-based argument. There is also a pace of play argument to be made as players spend time with their heads down in their books in addition to their normal green-reading routines.
The green-reading books show the slopes and angles of the greens in complex detail, which many detractors say takes the art and skill out of reading greens. Those like Spieth who feel they are solid green readers will stand to gain from the restrictions while those who struggle to read greens well will have one less crutch to depend upon.