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Red Light For Greens Books Justified

By:  Ron Green, Jr. – Global Golf Post

WILMINGTON, N.C. – When the USGA and the R&A surprised most people last week by announcing they were looking into the seemingly epidemic use of detailed greens books by players, it was an encouraging sign for a couple of reasons.

Like the relatively swift reaction after the Lexi Thompson debacle, the action on the greens books suggests the two ruling bodies are gaining a needed sense of immediacy.

It also offers hope that greens books will soon go the way of anchored putting strokes.

The statement read, in part:

Photo YouTube
Photo YouTube

“The R&A and the USGA believe that a player’s ability to read greens is an essential part of the skill of putting. … We are concerned about the rapid development of increasingly detailed materials that players are using to help with reading greens during a round.”

If you’ve watched a professional event recently, you’ve become accustomed to seeing a player and his caddie stand behind their ball and study a book for which they paid $150. (“You’d pay $1,000 if you had to,” one caddie said). The book diagrams each green in intricate detail.

Arrows – which look like a school of minnows in a confined space – detail the various slopes on each green. Another page details the degree of those slopes with the arrows included.

For example, the book at Eagle Point last week had 181 slope readings on the ninth green. There were too many arrows to count.

No matter where a player may be on any green, the books tell them how a putt will break. Golf balls, as we all know, have minds of their own and don’t always do as they’re told but the books take much of the guesswork out of putting.

Photo and caption by Global Golf Post
Photo and caption by Global Golf Post

Ian Poulter is a man of many strong opinions and he was right when he recently tweeted this: “The tour books should be banned. No one ever got their tour card because of those books. The art of putting has been lost. If you can’t read a green, that’s your fault.”

It’s a point of discussion for a couple of reasons. There is the obvious issue of how much information is too much information.

There is an art to putting. Just watch Ben Crenshaw in his prime. Tiger didn’t use greens books and he made almost everything for a decade or more. Jack Nicklaus. Brad Faxon. Steve Stricker. Artists all.

Jordan Spieth would be a great putter blindfolded. He uses the book. So does Phil Mickelson. So do plenty of players. They are entitled to use what’s allowed.

At the Open Championship last year at Royal Troon, both Mickelson and Henrik Stenson had individual sheets of paper detailing the movement on each green.

“I think probably we should ban the book,” Adam Scott said. “I have no scientific justification for that other than (the ruling bodies) make their decisions on what they feel a lot of the time, just like maybe the anchored stroke.

“If they feel that reading a green needs to be more of an art and it’s an advantage to a player who’s creative, great green reader, then I wouldn’t have a problem with that.”

The books are also valuable for approach shots, giving players an idea of how the ball will react when it lands at various places on a green.

There is also the pace-of-play question. It’s one more ingredient in the study stew that precedes virtually every putt now.

“If you want to address slow play, then you can take away one little part of it there,” Scott said.

“You can make that argument to me that green reading is definitely a skill or an art that some people have an advantage if they’re really good at it and you may be levelling the field by giving everyone a book.”

At the Ryder Cup last fall, a handful of players on each side had access to Hazeltine National greens books mapped by a European. Some players without the books felt at a disadvantage, Davis Love III said. As U.S. captain, he raised the issue and European captain Darren Clarke arranged for every player to have the same book.

“I’m indifferent because I don’t understand them,” Love said. “I use the old tricks to figure out which way it’s sloping.

“(Dr.) Bob Rotella would tell you that you’re overthinking it, over-reading it.”

Zach Johnson carries a book with him in tournaments but uses it primarily for long putts and for approach shots.

“To me it’s like getting a yardage,” Johnson said. “Why can’t I make my own? Would it have the exact precise things? I doubt it. I’m not suggesting they’re going to ban it. I just don’t understand the rationale.

“The other big thing is we’re less than 1 percent of the golfing population. The common amateur isn’t going to use it so why touch it? That’s why we should bifurcate our rules. I’ve been saying that for 20 years.”

Ernie Els tried using the books but didn’t care for them. He said players can get books custom made for the way they putt. It’s too much, he said. Els, too, believes the use of such books should be banned.

“I think reading the green is part of the game,” he said.

“We’ve got everything. We’ve got Trackman, you practice and train the way you want, you have coaches and equipment.

“We’ve got to do something ourselves.”

Republished with permission by Global Golf Post.