R&A and USGA finalise rules on green-reading materials for 2019


The R&A and the USGA have published the finalised interpretation regarding the use of green-reading materials in golf which will come into effect on 1 January 2019.

The new interpretation of Rule 4.3 (Use of Equipment) has been introduced following a six-week feedback period, and provides several revisions from the first proposed rules on the restriction of green reading materials. 

Both governing bodies originally set out their original plans in a bid to reaffirm the need for a player to read greens based on their own judgement, skill and ability - and have now finalised their definitions on how green books can be used. 

The new interpretation takes away the proposed minimum slop indication limit of 4%, while reinstating the allowed use of handwritten notes to create a copy or facsimile of a detailed green map - provided it adheres to the size limit and is written by either player or caddie. There will however be a limit on the size and scale of putting green maps across various mediuims, as well as the restriction against magnifying the putting green information in a bad to stop players being assisted with their line of play. 

David Rickman, Executive Director – Governance at The R&A said, “We received some extremely useful feedback over the last six weeks which has helped us finalise the limits. It is important that we take steps to ensure that skill and judgement 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.” 

“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 of 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.” 

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 if the 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%
(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
(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 R&A and the USGA will continue to evaluate the future development and use of green-reading materials as they ascertain the impact of the new interpretation to see if further modifications are necessary.