Photo courtesy of the Detroit Free Press

The PGA Tour is to be congratulated for its latest move – a decision to limit the use of those green and yardage books that have become obnoxiously ubiquitous virtually everywhere professional golf is played.

In particular, these books provide a super-scientific look at every green – the slope, the drop angle from one tier to another, the nature of the grade, the number of tiny insects that might be hidden behind a blade of grass. You get the picture.

The special art – and it is an art – of reading a green through visual examination has become secondary to the information contained within these magic booklets. It’s an overload of info, enough to confuse most duffers and enough to make it seem impossible for professionals to miss putts of average length.

These books bring to mind other “resource” material that has wormed its way into sports. There are the wrist “playbooks” worn by quarterbacks. Some seem large enough to include every play ever run in college football. There are the inside-the-cap notes that remind baseball players where they should position themselves for each batter. There are those silly football sideline placards featuring drawings of squirrels or images of other critters or faces of cartoon characters – all apparently designed to either convey information to players on the field or to block TV camera views of the action.

I say banish all of them. Games aren’t meant to be played with Cliff’s Notes and cheat sheets. These were great for high school English and algebra, but, come on, do great players really need this sort of help?

Golf tournaments are won on greens. Drive for show, putt for dough – it’s an oldie but it’s solidly accurate. Teaching pros preach it – you’ll make up more strokes with the blade than the driver. I consider this so important than I take all of three seconds to line up a putt before hopelessly pushing it toward the hole. Not IN the hole. Toward the hole.

Anyway, the ability to correctly ascertain the proper line and speed of a putt is an art form that has made many golfers rich. Missing a curving four-footer on the 18th green has cost many of those same golfers the difference between winning a tournament and settling for second-place money. This is why those booklets that fit neatly into the rear pockets of golf pants are so important.

I am much more impressed with success on the greens if the golfer’s skill at reading them isn’t assisted by charts and graphs and squiggly lines and information beamed down from satellites. Let the artist in the player take over. Let him or her read the green with the knowledge of years of playing and figure out the best approach to covering the land between the ball and the hole.

It should be noted that the PGA plan apparently will allow players to use approved books that will include some green information but not the in-depth material that has become a significant crutch over the years. This is a good compromise, one that should put the art back in the putt.

Mike Hembree

Mike Hembree is a veteran journalist who has covered a variety of sports for numerous publications and websites, including USA Today, Fox Sports, TV Guide and The Greenville (S.C.) News. He has written 14 books and has won numerous writing awards at the national, regional and state levels. He is a seven-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.