New Year, New Rules: Get Familiar with the Changes Before They Cost You Strokes
Every four years, the Royal & Ancient and the United States Golf Association announce changes to the Rules of Golf. Recently, the two governing bodies announced the changes that became effective Jan. 1, 2016. Here is a review of some of the key changes:
Rule 6-6d – Wrong Score for Hole
A new exception has been introduced to Rule 6-6d (Wrong Score for Hole) to provide that a player is not disqualified for returning a lower score for a hole than actually taken as a result of failing to include penalty strokes that the player did not know were incurred before returning the score card. An example of this would be if a player removed an out of bounds stake thinking it was an immovable obstruction (it is a fixed object and cannot be removed) affecting his swing and did not include the 2-stroke penalty on his score card. The player in this example was unaware it was a penalty. Previously, the player would have been disqualified, but instead, the player now adds an additional penalty of 2 strokes for the scorecard error. In all other cases in which a player returns a score for any hole lower than actually taken, the penalty will continue to be disqualification.
Rule 18-2b – Ball Moving After Address
In 2012, Rule 18-2b was amended and an exception was added, stating that a player was not penalized 1 stroke for a ball moving after address if it was virtually certain that the player did not cause their ball to move (i.e. wind, water or an outside agency caused the ball to move). To simplify it even more, in 2016, Rule 18-2b has been withdrawn completely. Now, a 1-stroke penalty will be applied only if the facts show that the player has caused the ball to move.
Rule 14-3 – Use of Artificial Devices or Equipment
Under the Rules previously, a player was disqualified for using an artificial device or equipment that was not permitted during a stipulated round. For example, in 2010, Juli Inkster was disqualified from an LPGA Tour event for attaching a weighted donut to her club during a wait on the 10th tee. However, starting this year, the penalty for a player’s first breach during the stipulated round has been reduced from disqualification to loss of hole in match play or 2 strokes in stroke play. So, if Inkster did this in the first event of the 2016 LPGA season, she would only be penalized 2 strokes. A key point is the wording “first breach.” If a player committed any subsequent breaches of Rule 14-3 (whether it was with the donut or some other device), the player would be disqualified.
Rule 14-1b – Anchoring
The biggest and most publicized change for 2016 is one that had already been previously announced. Rule 14-1b has been added, which prohibits anchoring the club while making a stroke. The full text is as follows: In making a stroke, the player must not anchor the club, either “directly” or by use of an “anchor point.”
Note 1: The club is anchored “directly” when the player intentionally holds the club or a gripping hand in contact with any part of his body, except that the player may hold the club or a gripping hand against a hand or forearm.
Note 2: An “anchor point” exists when the player intentionally holds a forearm in contact with any part of his body to establish a gripping hand as a stable point around which the other hand may swing the club.
Some other key points about this new Rule:
- The long putter itself is not banned. This is not an equipment rule. Just the anchored stroke is banned.
- The anchoring ban is not just limited to strokes made from the putting green.
- A club or committee is not allowed to introduce a Local Rule or adopt a Condition of Competition overriding this rule.
- Scores cannot be posted under the USGA Handicap System if the player anchored throughout the round.