Proposed limits on green-reading materials affect ams, too
01 Aug 2018
by Julie Williams of AmateurGolf.com

USGA photo
USGA photo

When the U.S. Golf Association announced July 31 that it plans to limit the use of green-reading materials beginning in 2019, the first thing that likely came to mind was the effect on professional golfers. Amateurs aren’t totally removed from the effects of the new rule, however – especially collegians and golfers who maintain an elite amateur schedule.

The announcement kicked off a six-week period during which the USGA and R&A will accept feedback from and consult with interested parties. The regulations are to be finalized and published as an “interpretation” of Rule. 4.3 (Use of Equipment) on Jan. 1, 2019. This will correspond with several Rules of Golf updates to take effect in the new year.

The USGA’s stated purpose in regulating these materials is to reaffirm “the need for a player to read greens based on their own judgment, skill and ability.” David Rickman, executive director of governance for the R&A, said it best.

“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.”

Of course, the problem becomes enforcement. With only the information given so far, the line seems murky between what is allowed and what is not.

In recent years, top college and amateur golfers have had access to the kind of extremely detailed yardage books that professionals are using. This summer alone, StrackaLine, a company that produces detailed yardage books by using a laser scanner to read surface contours, created greens guides for Niagara Falls Country Club, host of the Porter Cup. StrackaLine also scanned Oregon Golf Club, a Peter Jacobsen design located outside Portland, and the club provided the greens guides to participants in the course’s annual member-guest event.

StrackaLine reports that its greens guides have not just been adopted on the PGA, LPGA and Web.com tours, but also by more than 300 Division I college golf teams.

After the announcement, Golfweek contacted Jim Stracka, president of StrackaLine, who questioned the need for the new limitations.

Straka told Golfweek that his company will continue to make current green guides but will also work with the USGA to also create new, conforming guides.

“Our customers will get both,” Stracka said.

The basics of the USGA’s proposed limitations are as follows:

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.

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