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