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March 1st, 2017 - Article and Photo courtesy of USGA.org
The R&A and the USGA are pleased to announce a major set of proposed changes to the Rules of Golf. These changes result from our Rules Modernization initiative that began five years ago in an effort to bring the Rules up to date to fit the needs of the game today globally. This initiative had two guiding themes:
We hope that the proposed changes will be a major step forward in pursuing the following goals and objectives:
Overall Goals. We want the Rules of Golf to:
Specific Objectives for Revising the Substance of the Rules. We want the new Rules to:
Specific Objectives for How the Rules are Presented. We want the revised Rules materials to:
Given the unusual scope of this initiative, we want golfers and others in the golf community to have a chance to give us their feedback. We encourage you to review the proposed changes, to try them out on the course over the next few months, and to let us know your thoughts. We will consider all input as we continue our work to finish the new Rules by early 2018. We plan to put them into effect on January 1, 2019.
Summary of the Proposed Rule Changes
The proposed Rules modernization changes are broad in scope. We have looked at the entirety of the Rules, not just the larger issues or particular topics. We are proposing many small changes to make things easier to understand, reduce inconsistencies or improve outcomes. The full set of changes (organized by subject) can be found in Summary Chart: All Proposed Changes in Procedures and Outcomes in the New Rules of Golf for 2019. The major changes are found in Summary Chart: The Major Proposed Changes in the New Rules of Golf for 2019, which has links to videos or other visual illustrations and to the individual summaries found in Explanation for Each Major Proposed Change in the New Rules of Golf for 2019.
The major changes are also summarized here below, written in the style of the new Player’s Edition of the Rules – that is, with the focus on “you,” the player.
a. When Things Happen to Your Ball in Play
(1) Ball at Rest Accidentally Moves
(2) Replacing a Moved or Lifted Ball
(3) Ball in Motion Accidentally Deflected
b. Taking Relief
(1) Dropping a Ball in a Defined Relief Area
(2) Lost Ball
(3) Embedded Ball
(4) Ball to Use in Taking Relief
c. Special Rules for Specific Areas of the Course
(1) Putting Green
(2) Penalty Areas
d. Equipment You are Allowed to Use
(1) Damaged Clubs
(2) Damaged Ball
(3) Distance-Measuring Devices
e. How You Prepare for and Make a Stroke
f. Promoting Faster Pace of Play
g. Insisting on High Standards of Conduct and Trusting Player Integrity
Limitations in Revising the Rules
Taken together, these and the other proposed changes should help achieve our Rules Modernization goals and objectives by:
But we know that there are limits in trying to achieve all of our goals and objectives, especially at the same time. This is for two reasons. First, golf is an inherently complicated sport. It is played outdoors in all types of weather, on non-standardized fields of play found in almost every type of landscape and human environment on the planet, and with people, animals, vehicles and a great many other objects regularly in the way. The game’s bedrock principles are simple – you are to play a ball from the tee until it ends up in the hole, and to play the ball as it lies and the course as you find it. But the number and range of things that can happen to a golf ball and a golfer during play are almost infinite. The result is a need for many reasonable exceptions to these principles and for procedures telling the player what can or must be done in a wide range of situations that inevitably arise. This leads to longer and more detailed Rules, as players understandably expect answers to all such situations.
Second, there is often a tension between pursuing simplicity (which may lead towards having absolute rules that are easy to apply but may produce outcomes that sometimes seem wrong or unfair) versus trying to achieve “fair” and “right” results (which may lead towards having exceptions and more complicated doctrines so that slightly different factual scenarios can have different outcomes). Some changes (such as elimination of certain prohibitions and penalties) may help achieve both objectives, but other changes necessarily go in one direction or the other. Our overriding goals in balancing these considerations were to do what seems best from the standpoint of all golfers and to preserve the fundamental challenge and essence of the game.