The USGA and R&A Have Proposed Several Welcome Changes to the Rules of Golf

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The USGA and R&A Have Proposed Several Welcome Changes to the Rules of Golf


The USGA and R&A Have Proposed Several Welcome Changes to the Rules of Golf

The USGA and R&A have decided that the rules of golf need simplifying and there isn’t one person who plays the sport who would disagree with them. The sport’s two governing bodies have made some fairly drastic changes to rules and eliminated some altogether.

You can find the full list of changes here, but here are a few of my favorite as highlighted by Geoff Shackelford.

  1. Player accidentally moves his or her ball during search
  2. Putting with an unattended flagstick left in the hole
    • Current rule: Loss of hole/2-stroke penalty
    • New rule: No penalty if on putting green or elsewhere
    • My thoughts: This rule applies more for local amateur tournaments and games. We aren’t likely to see many PGA Tour pros leaving the flag in unattended as they will be afraid that their ball will bounce off of the pin and not go in.
  3. Player moves or touches a loose impediment in a bunker when the ball is in the bunker
  4. Player touches sand in a bunker with his or her hand or a club when the ball is in the bunker
    • Current rule: Touching of sand with hand or club results in loss of hole/2-stroke penalty
    • New rule: No penalty except when a player touches sand (1) with his or her hand or club to test the conditions of the bunker or (2) with the club in the area right behind or in front of the ball, in making a practice swing or in making the backswing for the stroke.
    • My thoughts: This is another rule change similar to the last one highlighted. Grounding a club in the bunker will no longer be an issue unless the player is testing the conditions of the bunker.
  5. Use of distance-measuring devices (DMD’s = range finders)
    • Current rule: DMD use is prohibited, unless a Local Rule has been adopted allowing their use.
    • New rule: The use of DMDs is allowed, unless a Local Rule has been adopted prohibiting their use.
    • My thoughts: Personally I’ve never used a range finder or a GPS, but many players do and they’ve become helpful in speeding up the game. Now players won’t have to walk around local courses looking for a yardage marker. This, however, likely won’t speed up play on the professional tours.
  6. Playing out of turn in stroke play
    • Current rule: No penalty, but the current Rule is written in a way that may imply that playing out of turn is wrong or is not allowed.
    • New rule: No penalty (as today), and “ready golf” is encouraged when it can be done in a safe and responsible way.
    • My thoughts: In this day and age, ready golf should be played at all levels. This should help speed up the game.
  7. Player’s reasonable judgment in estimating and measuring under a Rule
    • Current rule: A player’s judgment is given no particular weight or deference; the Committee decides any issue about the accuracy of the estimation or measurement based on a review of all facts.
    • New rule: When estimating or measuring a spot, point, line, area or distance under a Rule, a player’s reasonable judgment will not be second-guessed based on later evidence (such as video review) if the player did all that could be reasonably expected under the circumstances to make an accurate estimation or measurement.
    • My thoughts: No more fiascos like we saw with Tiger Woods during the 2015 Masters when his ball hit the pin and bounced into the water and it appeared that he took an improper drop. If the player walks up and checks the line and deems he has properly dropped, that is that.

All of these changes, along with the others listed by the USGA and R&A are good for the game of golf. They will not only help speed things up but will also help with confusion while on the course and will also help avoid crazy situations like we saw at the US Open’s last year.

In the end, that should be the end goal of the governing bodies of the sport.

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