The USGA and the R&A finally changed the rules of golf to reflect the reality of playing in windy conditions. Following an exhaustive, four-year review of golf’s 34 playing Rules, nine principal Rules have been amended to improve clarity and ensure penalties are proportionate. The most significant change that will affect most players is one dealing with a ball that moves after a player addresses it:
Ball Moving After Address (Rule 18-2b). A new exception is added which exonerates the player from penalty if their ball moves after it has been addressed when it is known or virtually certain that they did not cause the ball to move. For example, if it is a gust of wind that moves the ball after it has been addressed, there is no penalty and the ball is played from its new position.
Hopefully, this will end situations like the one during the final round of this year’s Open Championship when Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy was penalized when his ball was moved on the seventh green by the wind after he had addressed it.
Padraig Harrington, three-time Major winner and R&A-Working for Golf Ambassador, said: “I am delighted with the changes, in particular the ball moving after address. Every time the wind blows I am worried that my ball is going to move and I am worried about grounding my putter, distracting me from trying to hole my putt.
“This change will speed up play, there won’t be as many suspensions and players won’t be getting penalized or disqualified unfairly. It is definitely giving us players a little bit of a break.”
Among the other changes are these:
Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions (Rule 13-4). Exception 2 to this Rule is amended to permit a player to smooth sand or soil in a hazard at any time, including before playing from that hazard, provided it is for the sole purpose of caring for the course and Rule 13-2 (improving lie, area of intended stance or swing or line of play) is not breached.
Time of Starting (Rule 6-3a). The rule is amended to provide that the penalty for starting late, but within five minutes of the starting time, is reduced from disqualification to loss of the first hole in match play or two strokes at the first hole in stroke play. Previously this penalty reduction could be introduced as a condition of competition.
Another change is the announcement of publication of a single set of rules with a common cover, something it only took the two groups 60 years to accomplish. Commenting on the revisions to the Rules of Golf, USGA Senior Director of Rules of Golf Thomas Pagel said: “We have produced a unified code of the Rules of Golf for 60 years and although the context has been the same, we often found the perception that there were different Rules in place depending upon where you were to play the game.
“Now the book will not only have the same content, but it will also be presented in a uniform fashion with similar formatting and covers; this will truly be a single code governing the Rules of the game that reflects the strong collaboration between The R&A and USGA.”
There has been a unified code of golf since 1952 but until now The R&A and the USGA have published the same rules in separate editions, thereby giving the impression to some that the rules were different. However, this year sees identical publications with only some spellings and respective logos changing depending whether the edition serves the U.S. and Mexico or the rest of the world.
Golfing legend Arnold Palmer welcomed the announcement of a jointly published edition of the Rules. He said: “What has happened with The R&A and the USGA is wonderful. In the years I have been associated with the game and got to know The R&A and what their efforts are and having lived with the USGA all my life, one of the things I have always thought we should be closer together.”
In addition to writing about golf, Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.