The USGA and R&A plan to sternly limit green reading books starting on January 1st, 2019.
Geoff Shackelford at Golfweek spoke to sources who confirmed the changes on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t publicly allowed to comment:
“We announced last year that we were reviewing green-reading materials and expect to be able to give a further update in the coming weeks,” an R&A spokesman said. “We believe that the ability to read greens is an integral part of the skill of putting and remain concerned about the rapid development of increasingly detailed materials that players are using to help with reading greens during a round.”
The USGA provided the following statement: “We haven’t made any public announcements on Green Reading Materials since our joint announcement with The R&A last year, but we do plan an update on our review process in the coming weeks. It’s simply too premature to discuss, but we promise to keep everyone informed as we move forward.”
The rumored changes will effectively force players to use their skill to read the greens instead of relying on books that show exact distances and severity of breaks.
I believe this is a wonderful idea. While I’m not a big proponent of rolling back the driver or the ball and instead just halting distance gains (don’t @ me), I do believe that green reading should be more of an art and not a science involving mathematical compasses.
Jordan Spieth was asked about the move prior to the start of the Open Championship:
“I don’t think we’re allowed to use them starting next year, is that right?” he said. “Which I think will be much better for me. I think that’s a skill that I have in green reading that’s advantageous versus the field, and so it will be nice. But while it’s there, certain putts, I certainly was using it and listening to it.”
Sure, most of us would look at one of these $150 – $300 dollar a week books and be lost, but these things help professionals calculate where they will direct their putts and how much force to putt behind them. That’s like playing Tiger Woods video game and using the directional line to guide the ball home perfectly.
Where is the skill in that?
This should also help with the pace of play issue that the PGA Tour suffers from. Some may wonder how, well it’s simple, imagine looking at a putt with your eyes from three to four angles and then hitting that putt. Now, imagine looking from a putt from one angle and then looking at a green reading book, now move on to the second angle, and repeat the process by finishing with the first angle all over again.
Seeing professionals, who play the wonderful game of golf for a living, prove their skills by reading greens through sight would be a positive thing in this humble golf writer’s opinion.