A PLAY­ERS VIEW

Views on the big­gest changes to the Rules of Golf in over fifty years.

New Zealand Golf Magazine - - CONTENT -

They are the big­gest changes to the Rules of Golf in over fifty years. They are sim­ple, ef­fec­tive and should make the game a damn sight quicker to play.

Now it's the job of ev­ery one of us to learn what's chang­ing and, more im­por­tantly, tell ev­ery­one we play with what will hap­pen on Jan­uary 1st next year.

Here's a quick sum­mary of what we'll be able to do in just a few short months: • We can putt with the flag­stick in with­out any­body hold­ing it and there's no penalty. • When we drop the ball, it's from knee height and not from shoul­der height. • When we hit the ball out of bounds or into an area where we lose it, we'll agree with our play­ing part­ners where it most likely went out of play and drop a new ball there in­stead of re­turn­ing to the place of the orig­i­nal shot. • We can move loose im­ped­i­ments in bunkers and “penalty areas” as water haz­ards will now be called. • We can ground our club be­fore play­ing a shot from a “penalty area.” • We can touch the sand with our

hand or club while ap­proach­ing the ball in a bunker but not when ad­dress­ing the ball to play a shot. • We can only look for a ball for three min­utes be­fore it's de­clared lost. The changes to the Rules have been un­der con­sid­er­a­tion since 2012. Pro­pos­als came out last year and any golfer in the world who cared enough could make a sub­mis­sion to the R & A.

Af­ter more than 30,000 re­sponses from golfers in over a hun­dred coun­tries, in­clud­ing one from this cor­re­spon­dent, the R & A and the USGA have made some amend­ments to their pro­pos­als, but have come up with sweep­ing

changes which are de­signed to make golf a faster game and an eas­ier one to play and un­der­stand.

The most sig­nif­i­cant change to emerge from the feed­back is the height for drop­ping a ball - ei­ther with or with­out penalty. The orig­i­nal play was that it could be dropped from “any height” which of course was tan­ta­mount to al­low­ing it to be placed. The rea­son for a change from the cur­rent shoul­der height rule is un­clear, but at least the new knee high rule still al­lows for some ran­dom lies when the ball hits the ground.

The best change is the new rule about the flag­stick and putting.

There's no doubt that if you have a green say 35 me­tres long, and the pin is at the back, then it takes a time for a play­ing part­ner to walk up to the flag­stick and hold it while a player has a putt from the front of the green. If all four play­ers are on the front and the flag is at the back, there might be up to two minute's worth of walk­ing while ev­ery player has the flag­stick at­tended. From Jan­uary, if you're on the green and your play­ing part­ners haven't ar­rived, you can line up your putt and take it when you're ready - with the flag­stick in. And there'll be no penalty if you hit it.

The elim­i­na­tion of what we call the “Stroke and Dis­tance” penalty is only de­signed for club and so­cial play. Each course that wishes to of­fer an op­tion to the cur­rent rule must post a Lo­cal Rule stat­ing so, but it's not de­signed to be used in pro­fes­sional and elite am­a­teur golf.

The out­come for the golfer who does de­cide to play their next shot from along­side where it's thought the ball be­came lost or went out of bounds will be ef­fec­tively the same though.

So, if you hit your ball out of bounds off the tee, you'll walk to where you thought it crossed the line, drop a new ball and then play your FOURTH shot. It's a TWO stroke penalty.

The new rules for haz­ards and bunkers seem em­i­nently fair too. If the bunker sand is coarse, there's a fair chance there'll be some stones in there. We've all had sand wedges with a few nicks and scratches be­cause of those stones. Now we'll be able to shift them. It'll be the same with those an­noy­ing leaves that make a mess of some bunkers in April and May. Some­times they even cover the ball com­pletely. Now we can shift them.

There's an­other de­vel­op­ment in bunker rules too. If you have what you deem an un­playable lie, like an

"It's also rec­om­mended that club and so­cial play­ers adopt “ready golf”, if you're ready, play, and that play­ers take no more than 40 sec­onds to play a shot when it's their turn"

embed­ded ball in the bank of the bunker, you can now drop OUT­SIDE the bunker, but it'll cost you two strokes.

A bit of com­mon sense has been main­tained af­ter the sub­mis­sions too. The silly idea of hav­ing a manda­tory 20 inch or 80 inch mea­sure­ment for tak­ing relief has been aban­doned and we're stick­ing with the cur­rent 1 or 2 club length relief, but you're still not al­lowed to use long put­ters for that mea­sure­ment.

And here's some re­ally sen­si­ble news. The penalty for an ac­ci­den­tal dou­ble hit has been re­moved. Now you just count only the ac­ci­den­tal con­tact as a stroke and not an ex­tra penalty shot.

The “ball moved” penal­ties are go­ing as well. So, when you ac­ci­den­tally move a ball when re­mov­ing a twig or a leaf around it, you are no longer pe­nalised.

You can now also re­pair spike marks and other dam­age caused by shoes and an­i­mals on the green.

What the R & A and he USGA have come up with has taken a while, but is re­ally good for the game in the 21st cen­tury. Rules have be­come log­i­cal and not stupidly pe­nal.

It's also rec­om­mended that club and so­cial play­ers adopt “ready golf”, if you're ready, play, and that play­ers take no more than 40 sec­onds to play a shot when it's their turn.

It'll take a while to get used to this, but it's go­ing to make a big dif­fer­ence to how we play. Tell your friends. I can't wait till Jan­uary 1st next year.

Changes to the rules as of the 1st of Jan­uary next year say we can only look for a ball for three min­utes be­fore it's de­clared lost.

Rule changes say we can putt with the flag­stick in with­out any­body hold­ing it and there's no penalty.

Also if you have what you deem an un­playable lie in a bunker, you can now drop out­side the bunker at the cost of two strokes.

Rule changes say when we drop the ball, it's from knee height and not from shoul­der height.

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