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R&A Rule Changes

Brief Outline

For those of you that have not seen, or have not been interested in studying the detail of the Ruling Bodies’ proposals at this very early stage, here is a list of 10 of the most significant changes affecting amateur golfers;

1. There is no penalty when a player’s ball in motion accidentally hits them, or their equipment (e.g. it rebounds off the lip of a bunker).

2. A ball may be dropped from any height (yes, even one inch!)

3. Defined relief areas (e.g. for dropping) to be either 20" or 80" (not club-lengths). This translates to 50.8 cm and 203.2 cm!

4. A ball is lost after 3 minutes search.

5. There is to be relief for a ball that is embedded anywhere, except in sand.

6. The flagstick may be left in the hole while putting.

7. Spike marks and other damage to the putting green may be repaired before making a stroke.

8. Increased use of red penalty areas (previously known as lateral water hazards), so that lateral relief is always allowed from them, even if they are not areas of water (e.g. deserts, jungles, or lava rock fields).

9. There is no penalty for removing loose impediments in either penalty areas or bunkers.

10. A caddie is not permitted to line up their player before they make a putt, or any other stroke.

Please remember that the above outlines just 10 of the proposals, which are not yet in operation and even if they are agreed are unlikely to replace the existing Rules until January 2019. This is the published, estimated timeline from the Ruling Bodies;
To March 2017: Gathering feedback on the drafts of the proposals.
March 1st 2017: Announcement of the proposed new Rules of Golf.
March 2017 to August 2017: Seeking public feedback for further evaluation.
August 2017 to spring 2018: Reviewing and approving the new Rules
Spring 2018: Announcement of the new Rules
January 1st 2019: The new Rules take effect


Apparently, the R&A and USGA have been working on these proposed changes for over 5 years and have gone through 7 iterative drafts. Many golfers criticise those that are closely involved with the Ruling Bodies as being geriatric, blue blazers’ ensconced in their ‘ivory tower’ and totally out of touch with the playing of the game of golf. My experience is that this is very far from the truth. I can categorically say that all those that I have met and have had dealings with are dedicated professionals of all ages and backgrounds, striving to protect and improve the game of golf for the benefit of all 60 million golfers around the world. They are to be congratulated for this attempt to make the Rules significantly easier to understand and apply, whilst preserving the character of the game and the essential principles that have served players well for more than 270 years.

A good example of this is the outstanding work that has gone into preparing a comprehensive library of resources for easy access to everything surrounding the proposed new Rules. This includes explanatory narratives, diagrams, infographics, videos, Q&As, and the proposed new Rules book. They have even provided a recommended ‘Test Rules’ for use in an unofficial (i.e. non handicap counting) event. You can explore for yourself at these links;

R&A - R&A Rules Modernisation Proposals (click to open)

I strongly recommend that everyone with an interest in the future of golf delves into these comprehensive resources. Not only do they provide the precise, but much improved wording of the proposed changes, but also the reasoning behind them. Having done so, you are encouraged to take the 10 minutes survey, to ensure that your opinions are included in the feedback before the final changes are agreed and announced.