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New Green-Reading Rules No Problem, Says Smith

Cameron Smith says he uses green-reading books more for approach shots than on the greens. (Photo: Henry Peters)
Golf's governing bodies have announced watered-down rules changes regarding the use of green-reading books which will come into effect on January 1, 2019.

Following a six-week feedback period, The USGA & R&A will still allow golfers to recreate hand-written versions of detailed green maps and have scrapped their proposed “minimum slope indication limit of 4 [per cent]" which would have meant only slopes greater than 2.29 degrees could be displayed.

The 2019 changes to Rule 4.3 (Use of Equipment) – which are set to affect professionals and elite amateurs more significantly than club golfers – will instead reduce the scale of drawings and physical size of the actual contours booklets carried by players.

Golfers will only be allowed to use putting green maps with a scale of 3/8 inch to 5 yards (1:480) or smaller and the booklets themselves may not be larger than 4.25 inches by 7 inches.

Magnification of putting green information beyond the use of prescription glasses or lenses will be banned while “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.”

“It 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, while defining how such materials may be used,” the USGA and R&A said in a joint statement.

“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.”

Defending Australian PGA champion Cameron Smith said the restrictions announced will have little bearing on him during a round.

“My caddie and I, we bought the book every week, we used it as a rough guideline more into the greens than we used it on the green," Smith told a teleconference this morning. 

"I like to just trust what I see so it didn’t really change my routine all that much."

“If you’re in a bad spot in the rough, knowing where to miss it and just stuff like that.”

“It definitely didn’t change my routine too much with putting. A few of the guys that I’ve played with, they use it every green, they read it like, it’s like it’s science almost.

Smith – who will partner Marc Leishman at the upcoming World Cup of Golf in Melbourne – said the new green-reading rules will do little to improve the speed of play.

“I’m not sure what it’ll do to pace of play or anything like that, I think it’s just another excuse really.”

“In terms of pace of play, I think there’s a few more things that would go out the door before that.”

“The green reading stuff, we’ve always taken our time on because we have to. It’s an essential part of the game and if you get it wrong it costs you strokes and I think everyone’s going to take their time on the greens no matter if we have books or not.”

The R&A’s Executive Director of Governance, David Rickman, said there may still be further restrictions placed on green-reading materials.

“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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