USGA and R&A to restrict use of green-reading materials in 2019

July 31, 2018
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On Tuesday, the USGA and the R&A announced a joint plan to make changes to the Rules of Golf governing green-reading materials. The proposal will first undergo a six-week period for “feedback and consultation” before implementation on January 1, 2019.

The changes are meant to reaffirm “the need for a player to read greens based on their own judgment, skill and ability” and concern Rule 4.3 (Use of Equipment). This rule is the same one that Bryson DeChambeau ran afoul of a few weeks ago, when his use of a compass was ruled a violation.

In a press release, the USGA’s Senior Director of Rules of Golf and Amateur Status Thomas Pagel spoke about the changes. “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,” he said.

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

Read the full list of proposed changes to the Rules of Golf below. “Interested parties” have until September 14 to submit feedback.

USGA Proposed Changes to Rules of Golf

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.”