USGA, R&A Officially Place Limits on Putting-Green Maps


The United States Golf Association and the R&A – golf’s two governing bodies – announced their decision on the controversial use of green-reading materials.

“The new interpretation of Rule 4.3 (Use of Equipment) reaffirms the governing bodies’ view that the ability of golfers to read greens using their own judgment is an essential skill that should be maintained, and defines how such materials may be used,” the USGA’s press release stated.

The newly drawn-up Rule 4.3 will go into effect Jan. 1, 2019 and will place limits on the size and scale of putting-green maps that have become popular with Tour pros. It will also ban all electronic or digital products during play that assist with reading the greens, however, it does not completely ban putting-green maps or other green-reading devices and information.

“These latest modifications provide very practical changes that make the interpretation easier to understand and apply in the field,” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s 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.”

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

Per the USGA: 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.

Related to digital products, 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)).

The USGA and R&A said it will continue to evaluate the future development and use of green-reading materials to see if additional modifications are necessary.

Credit: USGA Press Release



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