R&A and USGA finalise rule on green-reading materials

Green Book

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

The new interpretation of Rule 4.3 (Use of Equipment) has been introduced following a six-week feedback period and “reaffirms the governing bodies’ view” that the ability of golfers to read greens using their own judgement is “an essential skill that should be maintained, while defining how such materials may be used”.

The interpretation limits the size and scale of detailed putting-green maps and any similar electronic or digital materials that a player may use during a round to assist with reading his or her line of play on the putting green.

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David Rickman, the executive director of governance at The R&A, explained: “We received some extremely useful feedback over the last six weeks which has helped us finalise the limits.

“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.”

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Rules Of Golf

What are the key changes?

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. 

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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 the proposed minimum slope indication limit of 4% and the prohibition against using handwritten notes to create a copy or facsimile of a detailed green map.

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Additions to the original proposal include a new size limit for the printed book/material (restricted to pocket-size), a new prohibition against magnification of putting green information, and 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.

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