A Change Is Gonna Come
The biggest complaint about the Rules of Golf is that they are too complicated. Recently, the R&A and the USGA unveiled their solution to this, debuting a proposed set of changes that will be the most substantial in decades.
It is the hope of the two organizations that these proposed changes will (i) make the rules easier to understand and apply; (ii) be more consistent and equitable; and (iii) reinforce the principles and character of the game.
From now until August 2017, you, the player, can try out the new rules and give feedback to the USGA. The governing bodies will then take the feedback and finalize the proposed changes. A new set of Rules of Golf will go into effect Jan. 1, 2019. So, let’s dive into some of the changes:
- The number of rules will be reduced from 34 to 24.
- The Rules book will be revised and changed, focusing on just what the player needs to know; committee-related items will be published in a separate document.
- Decisions on the Rules will be moved into the body of the Rules to allow readers one source to find all the information that they need.
- The Decision Book will be replaced with a Handbook that will give interpretive guidance rather than covering case by case scenarios.
But it is not just the formatting that will incur changes. A significant number of changes to the actual rules were debuted as well. Key ones include:
- There would no longer be a penalty if a ball played from the putting green hits an unattended flagstick in the hole.
- The term “water hazards” will be superseded by the concept of “penalty areas,” which allows a committee in charge of competition or the official of a club to mark areas that allow for safety and pace of play considerations. Players would also be allowed to ground their club in these areas or move loose impediments without penalty. Along the same lines, there would no longer be a penalty for moving/touching loose impediments in a penalty area or when one’s ball is in the bunker.
- Fixed distances would be used to define an area in which a ball is to be dropped rather than club-lengths. Twenty inches would replace one club-length and 80 inches would replace two club-lengths. This would allow for a more standardized area and more consistency when dropping. In addition to this, dropping a ball has been simplified to allow a drop from any height above the ground.
- Damage on the putting green caused by spike marks, shoe damage, animal damage, etc. can be fixed without penalty as long as play is not delayed.
- The concept of a format with a “maximum score” for each hole can be introduced by a committee to help pace of play.
These sweeping and modern change to the Rules of Golf will help players, officials, golf facilities and other entities learn the Rules in a better and more efficient manner. They will also help pace of play and increase enjoyment, even when a player still hits that occasional bad shot into a bad area.
For more, please visit usga.org/rules.