If you've watched pro golf in the last year or two, you've seen an increasing number of players whip out what appears to be their yardage books on the greens. You're probably wondering why they need a number for a putt. Well, they don't. Instead, these players are getting out what are known as green books, and they're something the USGA and R&A are looking at potentially banning during competition.
The governing bodies made some waves on May 1, announcing an intent to look into what they called "green-reading materials," including these books.
The statement read in full:
The R&A and the USGA believe that a player's ability to read greens is an essential part of the skill of putting. Rule 14-3 limits the use of equipment and devices that might assist a player in their play, based on the principle that golf is a challenging game in which success should depend on the judgement, skills and abilities of the player. We are concerned about the rapid development of increasingly detailed materials that players are using to help with reading greens during a round. We are reviewing the use of these materials to assess whether any actions need to be taken to protect this important part of the game. We expect to address this matter further in the coming months.
So here's what a green map in a green book looks like:
— Ken Brown..⛳️ (@KenBrownGolf) May 2, 2017
As you can tell, green books offer detailed, laser-measured topographical maps that show precise breaks for each portion of the green. While they don't tell specifically how to read a putt from a particular position to a hole location, the information is detailed to the point that it takes away, in the governing bodies' view, some of the skill in green reading that they feel is important to the game. They also are concerned that reading the maps instead of the greens is a pace-of-play issue, slowing the game.
It's unclear what the USGA and R&A will do, if anything, but they feel it's at least worth looking at a potential drag on the game.