The USGA and R&A have proposed a number of changes to the Rules of Golf to take effect on Jan. 1, 2019, and they will have a major impact on how golfers play the game of golf.
The governing bodies are teaming up to create one set of worldwide rules that are easier to understand, and over the next six months (until Aug. 31), they will be accepting feedback/comments from golfers. To comment on the proposed rule changes, visit usga.org/rules or call 908-326-1850.
Below, we’ve highlighted some of the most significant proposed rule changes — the most notable omission being stroke-and-distance. Every major rule change can be found on the USGA website.
Ball moved during search
There would be no penalty for causing a ball to move during search, and the ball would be replaced to its original spot.
Moving a ball on the putting green
There would be no penalty for a player accidentally moving a ball on the putting surface, although this rule was authorized by the Committee to be enforced as a local rule starting on Jan. 1, 2017.
Standard for deciding why a ball moved
A player would have to be “virtually certain,” or 95 percent sure, that he/she caused the ball to move. Otherwise, there is no penalty.
Replacing ball when original spot is not known
When a ball is accidentally moved, the player would place the ball in its original spot or its estimated original spot, rather than dropping it.
Ball in motion accidentally deflected
A ball that’s deflected by a player, their equipment, etc., would be played from where it comes to rest with no penalty. There would be a penalty, however, if a player positions his/her own equipment to be used as a backboard or otherwise intended point of deflection.
New procedure for dropping a ball
There would be no limitations to how high from the ground the ball must be dropped, as long as it moves through the air from some height above the ground.
Time for search before a ball is lost
The time to search for a lost ball would be reduced from 5 minutes to 3 minutes.
Substitution of a ball always allowed when taking relief
When taking relief of any kind, a player would be allowed the option to use a new ball or to continue using the original ball.
Repairing damage on the putting surface
The new rule would allow a golfer to repair any damage on the putting surface, including spike marks, except for aeration holes and natural deformities in the surface.
Touching the line of play on a putting green
There would be no longer a penalty for touching the line of play by a player or caddie, but there will still be a penalty for improving the line of play.
Ball played from the putting green hits unattended flagstick in hole
Through the green, the player would have the option to remove the flagstick or have it attended; there would be no penalty for hitting an unattended flagstick on the green.
Expanded use of red-marked penalty areas
The term “hazard” would be eliminated, and all penalty areas would be marked with a red line and would be treated like lateral hazards.
Touching or moving loose impediments or touching the ground in a penalty area
There would be no penalty for touching the ground or removing loose impediments in a penalty area.
Moving or touching loose impediments or touching sand in a bunker
A player may remove loose impediments in the sand and touch the sand with his/her club, although the player cannot deliberately touch the sand to test its condition. Practice swings would still be prohibited.
Use of clubs damaged during round
The player would be allowed to use a damaged club throughout the round regardless of how it was damaged.
Adding clubs to replace a club damaged during round
A player will not be allowed to replace a golf club that they caused to be damaged.
Use of distance-measuring devices
The new rule would allow the use of distance-measuring devices, with an option for a Committee to implement a local rule prohibiting them.
Caddie lifting ball on the putting green
A caddie would be able to lift and clean a player’s ball at any time without authorization, as long as the caddie is the one to replace the ball.
Encouraging prompt pace of play
Among other things, a player would have only 40 seconds to hit the ball from when the player can hit without interference or distraction.
“Maximum score” form of stroke play
A maximum score can be set, whether in relation to par or just a total score, where a player who does not finish the hole would not be disqualified but rather given the maximum score.
Reasonable judgment in estimating and measuring
As long as a player has done all that is reasonably expected through the rules, player judgement would be upheld even if later deemed to be wrong by an outside source such as video technology.
What do you think about the proposed rule changes?