USGA will restrict green-reading materials beginning in 2019
More than a year after announcing their concerns, the USGA and R&A are proposing regulations on green-reading materials/yardage books.
The governing bodies emphasized “the need for a player to read greens based on their own judgement” in a press release.
The regulations will be finalized in a published “interpretation” of Rule 4.3 (Use of Equipment) and adopted Jan. 1, 2019, following a six-week feedback period.
David Rickman, Executive Director – Governance at The R&A, 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. 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.”
Here are the key elements, per the USGA 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’d like to know what this theory might look like in practice, check out these illustrations from the USGA.