USGA and R&A are Concerned about Green-Reading Books
Joint statement regarding green-reading materials via RandA.org
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 judgement, 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.
The ruling parties have a point. Golf has always had to push back against the growth of technology to keep the game healthy. This feels different. To be clear this is a warning shot. They haven't agreed to ban anything yet. But where is this coming from? Some believe this is an attempt to speed up the pace of play. Top players are taking too long to putt. Studying their books before still stalking every angle of their putt.
What is unclear is where do notebooks and yardage books end and green-reading books begin? The ruling organizations' focus is on the growth of detailed topo-style maps. These maps show slopes measured down to the tenth of a degree. But how do they ban the use of a detailed map without banning the use of all course guides? How do you determine an acceptable level of detail in a set of player's notes?
Could this also be a first step in limiting the growth of golf related smartphone apps? These little pocket computers have done wonders to aid in the enjoyment of the game. Thousands of recreational golfers use apps during their friendly rounds. Will there be a stigma or total ban placed on such aids in general?
This will be a rules review worth keeping an eye on.