Behind the books is a father-son duo who just saw their business turned upside down.
On Wednesday, Golfweek announced that the PGA Tour is moving towards a ban on green reading material, which has been a growing source of controversy in recent years. Books, which provide laser renderings of the greens and provide information on the direction and severity of slopes, have become a ubiquitous tool in the arsenal of the modern tour pro. The vast majority of players attending this week’s US Open will be looking at some type of green reading aid when they navigate the putting surfaces at Torrey Pines.
It was at Torrey Pines that Jim Stracka first heard the news of a possible ban. Alongside their son Chase, the duo co-founded StrackaLine, one of the two main producers of green reading books (the other is Tour Sherpa). Tour pros have had access to the books since 2008, and in addition to selling them to players and their caddies, StrackaLine also provides materials for over 400 college programs, American Junior Golf Association events, high school teams and thousands of golf courses around. the country. (Editor’s Note: StrackaLine has a business relationship with Discovery Golf, the parent company of Golf Digest.)
Jim Stracka first learned of the Player Advisory Council’s vote to ban his product – which according to the Golfweek story came by a “crushing margin” – in a conversation Tuesday with Patrick Reed’s younger brother, Kessler Karain . He was not happy, as you might expect. He also didn’t understand the decision, as the Strackas believed they were no longer worried about a possible ban.
“We went through this with the USGA and the R&A in 2018,” says Jim Stracka. “We have reviewed the same equipment as any other Callaway golf ball. And our books have been blessed by the USGA and the R&A as legal. We print it on the covers. They put us through a formal review process, and at the end of that and the research, it turned into a pretty minor restriction. “
With this obstacle behind them, the Strackas have grown their business until it is today. They provide “a few hundred” PGA Tour pros with renderings before each round of each tournament – with the exception of the Masters, which do not allow green reading material – and update them based on position. of the pin of each day. Although Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson are most closely associated with the books, almost all of the top players use them every week.
And, again, there has been growing momentum for their ban. Most of the players, it seems, feel like Rory McIlroy, who chairs the PAC.
“I use a greens book and would love to get rid of it,” McIlroy told Torrey Pines Wednesday. “I think everyone’s in the same boat, most of the guys on tour are in the same boat, that if it’s got 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 would like them to be banned and no longer used.
For the greater good of the game. To sum up, the pro-ban argument generally rests on two reasons. First: Green reading is an inherent skill in golf, and these materials diminish that skill. Second: because players consult them before each putt, they slow down the game.
Stracka disputes both arguments.
“People don’t read greens, they hit putts based on memory. We all know how much easier it is to hit a putt when your competitor hits one on the same line. Green reading is out of memory. They move so much land today that you can’t trust the visuals. Your mind will play tricks on you. If you are good enough and use Aimpoint [the green-reading technique] read them with your feet, great. But when they say it’s a necessary skill I say it’s nonsense. Green reading is out of memory. We all know how well we read the greens when we play regularly on the course. You remember a point, and that’s what you rely on.
When asked to explain how someone playing a course for the first time has an idea of where a putt breaks, Stracka suggested that there are alternative less than artificial methods such as only pay attention to the location of drains – water must flow around the greens – mounds and bunkers.
“Most Greens just aren’t that deceptive. It is a series of bowls. The water needs to drain, and that’s basically where your fault lines are. You could look at this… it’s almost impossible to look at a green and understand how it tilts just by reading it in quotes. Reading greens is more of a memory than a skill. The book gives you this memory.
Regarding the pace of play, Stracka quoted a quote from Mickelson, who tweeted “Well, that sucks” Wednesday night in response to the news of the vote.
“He said, ‘if you think this is slowing you down, you’re an idiot.’ You’re not using it properly, ”Stracka said. “Phil uses the book as he approaches the green, he understands where the ball is going to go, then he goes up and hits his putt. If you use the book correctly, it speeds up the game. We have a collegiate case study to prove it. College players are notoriously the slowest players. With the books they were about 15 minutes faster than without the books. It is a tool. If you wait until the last minute to use it, slow players are slow, fast players are fast. They often use this as an excuse, but it is not correct.
Stracka also expressed concern that the ban on books on the PGA Tour could confuse the hordes of amateur golfers who use them. The ban, it seems, would only apply to the PGA Tour, and the books would not be made illegal under the rules of golf. It is not yet clear exactly what the ban would cover, or how it would be implemented.
“They tried to avoid the fork forever,” Stracka said. “What they’re doing is bifurcating the rules of golf. They create a new set of rules for themselves and one for everyone. And it’s just bad for the game.
“It opens a box of worms. I spend a lot of time with Thomas Pagel from the USGA on the question of what you allow and what you don’t? The players will still buy the books. They will always use the books in one form or another. What does ban books mean? You can take notes on a piece of paper, based on a green book, and take it with you.
Why, then, would the players vote the way they did?
“I guess there were a few influential players who basically got the other players on the committee to say yes, let’s get rid of those books. Why, I have no idea because most of them use the books! It is mind boggling. “