Short version: AimPoint charts are legal for all forms of play as determined by the USGA and R&A. The really long version follows...
Geoff Mangum is a smart cookie. He's done more research on putting than a lot of people have ever done, and he understands more about putting than a lot of people. Geoff is a former lawyer who left the practice of law to become an expert on putting, and by all accounts has done so.
But Geoff is also somewhat abrasive. That doesn't bother me one bit - I'm an abrasive guy sometimes as well, and I will stick to and defend my opinions unless someone else can change them (at which time I'll stick to and defend the new opinion).
Geoff has a nasty habit of popping up anywhere people are discussing AimPoint, a competing "product" to his method of reading greens, and posting a lot of bad, misleading, or just plain wrong information. It would be one thing if this information was not "against" a competitor in the putting (specifically green reading) space, but it is, and that's a sad way to "compete" in my opinion. This tactic amounts to little more than spreading FUD - it is quite literally spreading lies.
AimPoint charts are perfectly legal for play. You can print a book or take a copy of an instruction manual - hell, you can fill an entire Kindle with instruction manuals and, so long as you don't buy a book mid-round or unduly delay play, you can consult the books all day long.
Geoff may not know this, but throughout the middle to end of last year I was seriously considering becoming a PuttingZone certified instructor. I bought his DVDs and book (and paid for them, though you can easily get them free - legally), and I was reading up on what he had to say.
I stumbled across some posts of Geoff's posts in which he makes some of these allegations:
In the comments section on one of those posts, he removed at least one comment apiece from both he and I after he called me a "cheater" for explaining why I didn't feel the Rules of Golf made AimPoint charts (AimCharts) illegal. It was over the course of that few days, and due solely to Geoff's wild over-reaction and mistreatment of both me and fellow competitors in his space, that I decided not to seek PuttingZone certification.
Over the past few days Geoff has started this whole thing up again on a private Facebook group for instructors.
It turns out that I did make an error or two when responding to Geoff in the comments of the URLs above. I didn't get the rules wrong - AimPoint charts are perfectly legal for ALL play, including the U.S. Open and the British Open... what I got wrong was that the AimPoint charts ("booklets") are "artificial devices."
John Graham - who has had several run-ins with Geoff as well and is a member of the Facebook group - wrote most of what I'm going to paste below to set the record straight. I made several posts again refuting Geoff with facts, but the post below (again, mostly John's), I consider the definitive post on this topic and it addresses all of the items Geoff Mangum attempts to bring up.
So here it is: a rebuttal in full to Geoff Mangum's assertions that AimPoint charts are illegal and violate the Rules of Golf. Most of the text is John's, but I've made some edits to my copy.
Here you go again. Do I really have to continually beat back this "AimPoint charts are illegal" argument that's completely inaccurate? This will be the end of this discussion as I, once again, tackle all of your points head on.
If I understand your points correctly, they are:
1) The charts constitute "advice" under Rule 8.
2) Dick Rugge of the USGA overstepped his bounds in declaring the AimPoint charts legal.
3) The charts are artificial devices and the rules are clear about these items.
4) The exception that allows for certain artificial devices shouldn't be applied in this case.
Let's start from the beginning with Rule #8: Advice and Indicating Line of Play.
Your example of the Decision for Rule 8-1/2 is odd. The example talks about penalizing a player for using an artificial device to obtain yardage information during a stipulated round when the Local Rule allowing such a device hasn't been enacted.
The rule goes on to say that any other player who uses such information produced by an artificial device during the round would also be DQ'd. This doesn't relate to an AimChart, and yet you say "clearly this information [an AimPoint chart] is considered "advice". It's quite a stretch to equate information produced on a piece of paper in advance as the same as giving or taking advice during a stipulated round, particularly when you consider Decision 14-3/16, which specifically permits using (electronic) devices to "access information on advice-related matters that was produced prior to the start of the player's round (e.g. an electronic yardage book, swing tips)" and "using the device to access ... playing information from previous rounds...".
But that's getting ahead of ourselves a bit. Rule 8 simply doesn't apply. Numbers on a piece of paper (produced prior to the round) does not constitute "advice" and the rules and decisions clearly state that advice can come from a person, not from a piece of paper. To wit, a player's instructor can write down a page of swing tips and thoughts for a player so long as they do so prior to the round and the player has it with him. The coach cannot hand him a note on the fifth tee. It's a piece of paper, but the actual advice comes from a human and during a stipulated round, not before it.
Related to this is a joint statement from the USGA and R&A
. It says absolutely nothing about information gathered before a round. It is talking about, as is mentioned in the title, "R&A-USGA Joint Statement On Electronic Devices, Including Distance-Measuring Devices".
This joint statement discusses these organization's views on electronic devices only and talks nothing about yardage books or artificial devices covered under Rule 14-3, Exception 2. The entire paragraph you reference applies only to other features of electronic distance measuring devices. To quote, "The use of a distance-measuring device would constitute a breach of the Rules if:" and then it lists a bunch of features that would be in breach of 14-3. It makes no reference to any other artificial devices and states specifically they are referencing Electronic Distance Measuring Devices or Electronic Multi-Functional Devices.
The last time I checked, paper wasn't "electronic." And I think the conclusion sums it all up nicely:
"The USGA and The R&A have no intention to permit the use of electronic devices to go beyond the current rules and interpretations. This means that distance-measuring devices and applications will be limited to distance information only. If a device that is being used for distance-measuring purposes has any additional features, all such
features must conform to the Rules of Golf."
All manufacturers of distance-measuring products are encouraged to submit their devices or applications to the appropriate governing body for a ruling."
Again, AimPoint charts are not electronic distance measuring or multi functional devices. I'm sure we can all agree on that.
Let's move on to point number two. "Rule 14-3. Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment and Unusual Use of Equipment"
The USGA goes on to say:
"The United States Golf Association (USGA) reserves the right, at any time, to change the Rules relating to artificial devices, unusual equipment and the unusual use of equipment, and make or change the interpretations relating to these Rules."
"A player in doubt as to whether use of an item would constitute a breach of Rule 14-3 should consult the USGA."
"A manufacturer should submit to the USGA a sample of an item to be manufactured for a ruling as to whether its use during a stipulated round would cause a player to be in breach of Rule 14-3. The sample becomes the property of the USGA for reference purposes. If a manufacturer fails to submit a sample or, having submitted a sample, fails to await a ruling before manufacturing and/or marketing the item, the manufacturer assumes the risk of a ruling that use of the item would be contrary to the Rules."
Clearly, it states that anyone wishing to see IF their artificial device, unusual equipment or their use of equipment would constitute a breach of Rule 14-3, that they should submit it for approval. It does not say anything about submission being only for equipment. This statement that you made, Geoff: "The equipment pre-approval provision is not focused on 'artificial devices' but is just equipment and manufactured products in general" is completely false as described above. In fact, it goes out of its way to include all items as labeled in the title of what Rule 14-3 is. In this
case, Mark Sweeney submitted the AimPoint charts for approval under this rule and the USGA ruled that the chart - the "device" - was legal for play.
So, is Dick Rugge "the equipment guy" the appropriate person to make this ruling? At the time, Dick Rugge was the Senior Technical Director put in charge of making rulings about artificial devices, unusual equipment and the use of equipment. Rule 14-3 specifically covers rulings on artificial devices and equipment. Clearly, "the equipment guy" was the right guy when deciding on rules about artificial devices and equipment. That takes care of points one and two.
On to points three and four. I agree with you that AimPoint charts are "artificial devices." So what do the rules specifically say about artificial devices?
Here is the rule, quoted exactly from the Rules of Golf: "Except as provided in the Rules, during a stipulated round the player must not use any artificial device or unusual equipment, or use any equipment in an unusual manner:"
"a. That might assist him in making a stroke or in his play; or
b. For the purpose of gauging or measuring distance or conditions that
might affect his play; or
c. That might assist him in gripping the club, except that:"
"(i) plain gloves may be worn;
(ii) resin, powder and drying or moisturizing agents may be used; and
(iii) a towel or handkerchief may be wrapped around the grip."
Right off the bat, the letter from Rugge covers the AimPoint charts under the "provided by the Rules" section, but let's dig a little deeper because I'd like to end the debate once and for all.
Clearly, the rules state that an artificial device must not be used during a stipulated round that might assist him in making a stroke or in his play, as you state the AimPoint charts do. As Erik pointed out, the definition of "stroke" is clearly defined, and even if we adopt the strictest definition for "in his play", it's irrelevant as I'll get to shortly.
As Erik also mentioned earlier, part b involves measuring during a stipulated round. Looking at a piece of paper during a stipulated round is not measuring anything. That argument ends there.
So, how can it be that Dick Rugge can make such a radical decision on the legality of AimCharts that is so obviously in direct contradiction to Rule 14-3 - assuming we interpret "in his play" as broadly as possible?
The answer lies in the Exceptions and the Decisions. Here are the exceptions:
Exceptions to Rule 14-3:
"1. A player is not in breach of this Rule if (a) the equipment or device is designed for or has the effect of alleviating a medical condition, (b) the player has a legitimate medical reason to use the equipment or device, and (c) the Committee is satisfied that its use does not give the player any undue advantage over other players."
"2. A player is not in breach of this Rule if he uses equipment in a traditionally accepted manner."
The answer lies in exception 2. Pay particular attention to the words used: "uses... in a traditionally accepted manner." It says nothing about the artificial device itself being traditionally accepted. It specifically says that equipment is used in a traditionally accepted manner.
Let's backtrack briefly to see if an artificial device is even equipment.
Equipment is defined as: "'Equipment' is anything used, worn or carried by the player or anything carried for the player by his partner or either of their caddies, except any ball he has played at the hole being played and any small object, such as a coin or a tee, when used to mark the position of a ball or the extent of an area in which a ball is to be dropped. Equipment includes a golf cart, whether or not motorized."
I think this is clear that an AimChart is both an artificial device and equipment.
How does Exception 2 apply to the AimCharts? Let's see how the USGA has applied Exception 2 to give us a little precedent on our current situation.
Decision 14-3/5 talks about a booklet with yardage in it and whether or not that artificial device is in breach of 14-3.
"Q. A booklet contains illustrations of the holes on a course, including isolated trees, bunkers, etc. Superimposed on each illustration is a yardage scale in increments of ten yards. Thus, a player using such a booklet can estimate how far his ball lies from a putting green or a tee. Is use of such a booklet during a round contrary to Rule 14-3?"
"A. No. Although such a booklet is an artificial device, its use has been traditionally accepted and Exception 2 to Rule 14-3 applies."
Nowhere in that decision do the Rules say a yardage book must contain *only* yardages, and in fact, the example given indicates that the booklet "contains illustrations of the holes on a course, including isolated trees, bunkers, etc." The biggie there is the "etc." at the end, as it includes any other notations the player wishes to make.
Since the answer was "No," that means, as exception 2 states above, that it has been used in a traditionally accepted manner.
Let's look at Decision 14-3/5.5
In this decision, it is asked "With regard to Decision 14-3/5, may a player use an electronic device containing the same information?"
The answer: "Yes. Exception 2 to Rule 14-3 applies, but the player must not use a device with a measuring or distance calculating function. However, see also the Note to Rule 14-3."
With this, the USGA has defined "used in a traditionally accepted manner."
It has nothing to do with technology, how old it is, or its contents. Your argument that there is no way AimCharts can be traditionally accepted because they are only a few years old or not used widely is a misapplication of the rule as it is stated. Rule 14-3, Exception 2 specially refers to the "use in a traditionally accepted manner."
Use in a traditionally accepted manner is the act of using equipment in a manner that is traditionally accepted. In this case, reading prepared information written down or electronically in advance is the traditionally accepted manner. The joint statement mentioned earlier confirms this belief of both the USGA and R&A. The statement does mention, however, that some electronic distance measuring or electronic multi-functional devices may be reinvestigated depending on their particular functions. It does not say anything about yardage books or other artificial devices that simply present preformed information in a written form.
This is why yardage books or other artificial devices that contains prepared in advance information about a golf course is accepted under Rule 14-3, exception 2 and it is the reason why reading the rule book on the course is also allowed. Without reading being a traditionally accepted manner, each golfer would be forced to memorize the entire rule book, which is clearly also an artificial device that might assist a player in his stroke or with his play.
As long as players use AimCharts in their traditionally accepted manner they fall under Rule 14-3 Exception 2 and this is what makes Dick Rugge's ruling legitimate and accurate. His ruling is based on the fact that these charts fall under Exception 2 of Rule 14-3 and that AimPoint charts will be used in a traditionally accepted manner. That manner is reading them.
I hope this ends your continued belief that the people in charge of the rules have mistakenly applied them in this case. I have clearly shown where your four arguments were wrong, false, or misapplied. If you're going to try and use the Rules to sway public opinion for your stance, it would be in everyone's best interest that they get to see how the actual rules read and how they are applied by the people that are in charge of protecting this great game.