Golf’s Governing Bodies Finalize Limits on Green-Reading Materials

After a six-week feedback period, the governing bodies for the Rules of Golf have revealed their final (for now) interpretation on the use of green-reading materials used in golf. The finalized ruling will be part of the new Rules of Golf which take effect on January 1, 2019.

According to a statement by the R&A and the USGA, which presumably will also be adopted by Golf Canada, they say the clarification to 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 use of the materials in highly enlarged versions had become a point of concern in regards to how much assistance they were providing the player in their ability to make putts, and for some, regarding their effect on the pace of play.

The new interpretation limits the size and scale of detailed putting-green maps and any similar electronic or digital materials that a player may use during a round to assist with reading his or her line of play on the putting green.

“These latest modifications provide very practical changes that make the interpretation easier to understand and apply in the field,” said Thomas Pagel, USGA senior managing director, Governance. “We’re thankful for everyone’s willingness to provide feedback as we worked through the process of identifying a clear interpretation that protects the essential skill of reading a green, while still allowing for information that helps golfers enjoy the game.”

David Rickman, executive director – Governance at The R&A said, “We received some extremely useful feedback over the last six weeks that helped us finalize the limits. It is important that we take steps to ensure that skill and judgment are the main determinants of success in reading the greens. The new interpretation is a first step in the process and we will keep green-reading materials under review in 2019 to assess whether any further action is required.”

The new interpretation:

Golfers may continue to use a putting-green map or other putting-green information, except that:

  • Any image of a putting green must be limited to a scale of 3/8 inch to 5 yards (1:480) or smaller (the “scale limit”).
  • Any book or other paper containing a map or image of a putting green must not be larger than 4 ¼ inches x 7 inches (the “size limit”), although a “hole location sheet” that displays nine or more holes on a single sheet of paper may be larger, provided that any image of a single putting green meets the scale limit.
  • No magnification of putting-green information is allowed other than a player’s normal wearing of prescription glasses or lenses.
  • Hand-drawn or written information about a putting green is only allowed if contained in a book or paper meeting the size limit and written by the player and/or his or her caddie.

The final interpretation also clearly defines that any use of electronic or digital putting-green maps must comply with the same limits.  A player is still in breach of Rule 4.3 ifthe player uses any device not consistent with the purpose of the limits, including:

  • Increasing the size of the green’s representation beyond the scale or size limits.
  • Producing a recommended line of play based on the location (or estimated location) of the player’s ball (see Rule 4.3a(1)).

Some of the changes made to the original proposal following the feedback period include the removal of: (1) the proposed minimum slope indication limit of 4% and (2) the prohibition against using handwritten notes to create a copy or facsimile of a detailed green map.

Additions to the original proposal include: (1) a new size limit for the printed book/material (restricted to pocket-size), (2) a new prohibition against magnification of putting green information and (3) a new requirement that any hand-drawn or written information must be in a book or on a paper meeting the size limit and must be written by the player and/or his or her caddie.

The Governing bodies assert that they will continue to available the future use and development of these materials, and will act as appropriate if they need to provide further modifications.

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