• Alistair Tait

Hurray: No more library trips!

Expect TV viewing figures for PGA Tour events to shoot up when the Player Advisory Council ratifies the banning of green reading books for next year. Most golf fans will look forward to watching players hit putts quicker rather than spend two minutes per green making library trips.

Quite how the game ever sanctioned the use of green reading books is a mystery. All they’ve done is slow play down from a funereal to a glacial pace. As if golf at the professional level isn’t slow enough?

Many golf aficionados no doubt punched the air in delight when former colleague Eamon Lynch broke the story that the Advisory Council had voted “overwhelmingly” to ban these infernal books from the start of next season. Rory McIlroy, who chairs the council, practically verified Lynch’s story this week at Torrey Pines in the U.S. Open. McIlroy said:

“Everything that’s talked about in those meetings is somewhat confidential, but what I can say, I think, I use a greens book and I’d like to get rid of them.
“Most guys on tour are in the same boat, that if it’s going to be available to us and it helps us, people are going to use it, but I think for the greater good of the game, I’d like to see it outlawed.”

And there’s the rub: if such books are legal and many players are using them, then everyone else is going to do so too. Even those like McIlroy who vehemently oppose them.

Augusta National quite rightly bans the books from use during the Masters. The green jackets go out of their way to provide the sternest greens possible so the top players don’t rip the Dr Alister MacKenzie layout to shreds. No way they were ever going to give players an edge by letting them use the books in competition. If only all of golf had done that then rounds might be just a wee bit quicker, albeit trying to get many professionals to speed up is a bit like trying to get Brooks Koepka to like Bryson DeChambeau.

To be fair, the R&A and USGA brought in new rules in 2019 to reduce the information contained in these books. However, many feel those constraints haven’t gone far enough. Me too. I’d like to have seen the governing bodies outlaw them altogether.

The bottom line is green reading should be an integral skill. Players should have to stand over a 30-foot putt and deduce which way the ball is going to break rather than reach into their back pocket and read it off a page. And why should the edge great putters of the ilk of Ben Crenshaw, Brad Faxon, and Seve Ballesteros have over others be taken away from them by providing the knowledge they possess to all and sundry in a nicely packaged book?

So I say hurray to no more library trips on the PGA Tour next year. I may actually watch a bit more golf in 2022. I might not be alone.

#JustSaying: “Half of golf is fun: the other half is putting.” Peter Dobereiner

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