Gov­ern­ing bod­ies trim rule­book

Pro­posed changes aim to sim­plify, speed up game.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Doug Fer­gu­son

Golf ’s two gov­ern­ing bod­ies re­leased a draft of mod­ern rules on Wed­nes­day aimed at bring­ing com­mon sense to what can be a com­pli­cated sport.

The Royal & An­cient Golf Club and the U.S. Golf As­so­ci­a­tion spent more than five years try­ing to sim­plify the Rules of Golf with­out strip­ping the cen­turies-old game of its tra­di­tions and fun­da­men­tals of fair play. The re­sult fig­ures to be the most com­pre­hen­sive over­haul since the first set of rules was pub­lished in 1744.

But in this case, the Rules of Golf ac­tu­ally shrunk.

The pro­posal, which now faces six months of pub­lic feed­back, re­duces the num­ber of rules from 34 to 24.

In many cases, penal­ties have been re­scinded. Play­ers no longer will be as­sessed a one-shot penalty if their golf ball ac­ci­den­tally moves, if their club touches the ground while in a haz­ard or even if a putt strikes a flag­stick that is not be­ing tended.

Re­mem­ber when Jeff Mag­gert’s shot from a fair­way bunker car­omed off the lip and hit him in the chest? That cost him a two-shot penalty in the 2003 Masters. Un­der the pro­posed rules, it wouldn’t be a penalty.

“The pri­mary ob­jec­tive was, ‘How do we make the rules eas­ier to un­der­stand and eas­ier to ap­ply around the world,’” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s se­nior di­rec­tor of rules and am­a­teur sta­tus. “I think what you’ll see is that part of this process is to eval­u­ate all the out­comes and iden­tify out­comes that are more rea­son­able and com­mon-sense based.”

Rory McIl­roy has been in­formed of the changes and liked what he heard.

“I think golf ’s em­pha­sis on the rules can some­times turn peo­ple away from it,” McIl­roy said. “To mod­ern­ize and make it sim­ple is a good thing. With what’s hap­pened in the last cou­ple of years, with some rul­ings and high-pro­file things that have hap­pened at cru­cial stages in tour­na­ments, peo­ple who look at that and might want to get into the game say: ‘You know what? It’s too com­pli­cated.’”

De­pend­ing on the six-month pub­lic com­ment pe­riod, the pro­posal would be fi­nal­ized in 2018 and be­come ef­fec­tive in 2019.

One of the pro­posed rules would pe­nal­ize cad­dies who stand be­hind their play­ers un­til right be­fore the shot, to help them with align­ment. That is most prom­i­nent on the LPGA Tour. If the mod­ern rules are adopted, cad­dies would have to move as soon as their play­ers take their stances.

“This is one we stepped back and said, ‘Align­ing your­self is just fun­da­men­tal to play­ing the game,’” Pagel said. “It’s not that cad­dies can no longer help the player. But when a player goes to set up to the ball, that chal­lenge is the player’s.”

An­other sig­nif­i­cant pro­posal, which got McIl­roy’s at­ten­tion, was how to drop. The goal was to get the ball back in play quickly. Mod­ern rules would more eas­ily iden­tify where to drop, and play­ers would only have to hold the ball above the ground with­out it touching any­thing to make the drop.

Among other pro­posed rules:

■ In­stead of only be­ing al­lowed to re­pair pitch marks or old hole plugs on the greens, play­ers now can fix just about any­thing, in­clud­ing spike marks and heel prints.

■ Play­ers were dis­qual­i­fied if they used a club that was dam­aged in anger. Un­der the pro­posal, they can still use it.

■ Play­ers who touched the line of their putts or the putting green in point­ing out a tar­get faced a two-shot penalty. The mod­ern rule has no penalty, pro­vided they are not im­prov­ing the con­di­tion of the putt.

Sev­eral pro­posed rules were geared to­ward im­prov­ing the pace of play, such as en­cour­ag­ing play­ers to hit their shot when ready. Play­ers would have only three min­utes to search for a lost ball in­stead of five min­utes.


Rory McIl­roy likes what he has heard about the “mod­ern rules” draft from the USGA and R&A. “To mod­ern­ize (golf) and make it sim­ple is a good thing,” he said.

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