USGA Announces Green-Reading Restrictions

The USGA and R&A made official on Tuesday what has been expected for weeks: beginning in 2019, green-reading materials will be limited “reaffirming the need for a player to read greens based on their own judgement, skill and ability.”

There will be a six-week feedback period, according to the release, after which the regulation will be finalized in an interpretation of Rule 4-3 and enforced beginning on Jan. 1, 2019.

“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,” Thomas Pagel, Senior Director, Rules of Golf and Amateur Status for the USGA, said. “The focus of the interpretation is to develop an approach that is both effective and enforceable.”

USGA, R&A To Restrict Green-Reading Books

“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,” David Rickman, the Executive Director of Governance at the R&A, said. “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.”

There are four key elements to the proposed interpretation, which the USGA and R&A detailed in their release.

  • 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.

If you would like to submit feedback to the USGA and R&A, you can do so by emailing the governing bodies at rules@usga.org by Sept. 14, 2018. 

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