Many radical revisions will take place if The R&A’s proposed changes to the Rules of Golf from 2019, as revealed today, go ahead as currently envisaged.
The R&A’s and USGA’s Rules modernisation initiative has been rumbling away in the background for many years, and today both organisations have announced many significant proposed changes to the Rules of Golf from January 1, 2019.
Among the underlying reasons for the desire for change are:
The sheer length of the current Rule book, with the Decisions on the Rules of Golf then running to many more pages covering less common scenarios.
The complexity and tone of language at times, which some golfers find difficult to fully comprehend and digest.
An increasing desire not to see unwitting, and perhaps relatively minor breaches in the overall scheme of things, attract seemingly harsh penalties.
The chance to perhaps address some of the game’s current pace of play concerns through the Rules themselves.
Golf is played in an arena where anything can and often does happen, so the Rule book is never going to be a concise volume, but some of the fairly radical proposed changes announced today would go some way to making it a little more concise, manageable and digestible.
There are too many proposed changes to cover here, so we have picked out the ten that most caught our eye and asked David Rickman, Executive Director – Governance and Chief of Staff at The R&A, for further exclusive information about the rationale and reasoning for these ten changes…
(1) Ball in Motion Accidentally Deflected
Your ball in motion accidentally hits you, your equipment, your caddie, someone attending the flagstick for you or a removed or attended flagstick: There is no longer a penalty (such as when your ball bounces off a bunker face and hits you).
(2) Ball at Rest Accidentally Moves
Accidentally moving your ball while searching for it: There is no longer a penalty.
(3) Taking Relief
Dropping a Ball in a Defined Relief Area: Relaxed dropping procedure – the only requirement is that you hold the ball above the ground without it touching any growing thing or other natural or artificial object, and let it go so that it falls through the air before coming to rest; to avoid any doubt, it is recommended that the ball be dropped from at least one inch above the ground or any growing thing or object.
(4) Lost Ball
Reduced time for ball search: A ball is lost if not found in three minutes (rather than the current five minutes) after you begin searching for it.
David Rickman: “We’re conscious that it’s quite a reduction in time and maybe one of our concerns is that if golfers know any Rule, they know that you’ve got five minutes to search for a golf ball! But despite that, we think that three minutes is enough, and that the vast majority of balls, if they’re going to be found, are going to be found within that time.”
(5) Embedded Ball
Relief for embedded ball in the general area: You may take relief if your ball is embedded anywhere (except in sand) in the general area (which is the new term for “through the green”), except where a Local Rule restricts relief to the fairway or similar areas (this reverses the default position in the current Rules).
(6) Putting Green
Putting with flagstick left in the hole: There is no longer a penalty if you play a ball from the putting green and it hits the unattended flagstick in the hole.
(7) Putting Green
Repairing damage on the putting green: You may repair almost all damage (including spike marks and animal damage) on the putting green (rather than being limited to repairing only ball-marks or old hole plugs).
Removal of special restrictions on moving loose impediments: There is no longer a penalty if you touch or move loose impediments in a bunker.
(9) Distance-Measuring Devices
DMDs allowed: You may use DMDs to measure distance, except when prohibited by Local Rule (this reverses the default position in the current Rules).
(10) How You Prepare for and Make a Stroke
Expanded restriction on caddie help with alignment: Your caddie is not allowed to stand on a line behind you from the time you begin taking your stance until you have made your stroke.
Details of all the proposed changes for January 1, 2019 can be found on The R&A’s website at www.randa.org