Less than a week after introducing the “Lexi Thompson Rule,” or New Decision 34-3/10, the USGA sent a signal that it has something else on its radar. Namely, defending the art of green reading.
Viewing the issue through the lens of Rule 14-3, the USGA expressed concern over, it seems, the green detail in professional yardage books. Rule 14-3 bars a player from “the use of any artificial device or unusual equipment … for the purpose of gauging or measuring distance or conditions that might affect his play.” Thus, in a roundabout way, the green-mapping technology used to create the highly sophisticated and detailed pro yardage books is troubling to the guardians of the game.
The USGA-R&A’s full joint statement reads:
“The R&A and the USGA believe that a player’s ability to read greens is an essential part of the skill of putting. Rule 14-3 limits the use of equipment and devices that might assist a player in their play, based on the principle that golf is a challenging game in which success should depend on the judgment, skills and abilities of the player. We are concerned about the rapid development of increasingly detailed materials that players are using to help with reading greens during a round. We are reviewing the use of these materials to assess whether any actions need to be taken to protect this important part of the game. We expect to address this matter further in the coming months.”
Reading between the lines, it certainly seems the “concern” is centered around yardage books that show slope and topographical information. You know, like these.
Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules and amateur status, told Golf Digest’s Mike Stachura the worry centers around the following:
“The increased level of detail that the USGA and the R&A has seen of late, both in printed and electronic form, that has prompted the study. It is fair to say all materials will be reviewed, but the original intent was not focused on basic printed yardage guides found at most golf courses, but those with an increased level of detail/sophistication.”
This led Stachura to connect the dots, writing, “It seems conceivable that green charts instead of contour lines measuring the percentage of slope…might someday reach a stage where all putting locations might be determined to have a certain break like two feet right or six inches left.”
Yardage books in general have long been contentious on the PGA Tour, but the USGA largely hasn’t had an issue with the pocket course maps until now. It will be interesting to see if the folks in Far Hills ultimately rule on the level of detail in Mark Long’s (and similar) yardage books.
If you ask PGA Tour pro Luke Donald, he seems to agree with the concern.
Totally agree. There is an art to green reading that is getting lost, just like judging the wind & this will help speed up play ???????? https://t.co/epWiq1jUOC
— Luke Donald (@LukeDonald) May 1, 2017