December - 2011

Rule Changes for the next 4 years

For the first time in the history of the Rules of Golf, the U.S.G.A. and the R&A have announced the adoption of identical formatting for the Rules of Golf worldwide.

This is interesting because it's occurring largely in anticipation of Golf returning to the Olympic Games in 2016 at Rio de Janeiro.

The newest Rules edition covers the entire world and is for 2012 to 2015.

In the past, generally the Rules of Golf were reprinted every two years. Now however, there will be no more two-year printed editions and will read 2012-2015 to help the public understand this new four-year rules cycle.

The "Decisions on the Rules of Golf" will continue to be published on a two-year basis.

This is really unprecedented for golf. All the worldwide editions will have the same photographs, identical rules and illustrations. The difference will be that each country's edition will be printed in the various languages native to that part of the world.

Two of the more interesting rules changes are:

o Rule 13-4, "Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions": Exception 2 to the rule has been amended to permit a player to smooth sand or soil in a hazard at any time, including before playing from that hazard. That is, provided it is for the sole purpose of caring for the course and Rule 13-2 is not breached.

o Rule 18-2b, "Ball Moving After Address": In regard to a ball moving after it has been addressed by a player, a new exception has been added to exonerate the player from penalty if "it is known or virtually certain that he 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 it's new position.
In the past, a player was penalized one stroke and the ball had to be replaced in it's original position.

Among other rules changes that will go into effect next year:

o Definition of addressing the ball: The definition is being amended so that a player has addressed the ball simply by grounding his club immediately in front of or behind the ball, regardless of whether or not he has taken his stance.

o Searching for a ball: Rule 12-1 is being amended to permit a player to search for his ball anywhere on the course when it may be covered by sand and to clarify that there is no penalty if the ball is moved in these circumstances. However, if a ball in a hazard is moved when covered by loose impediments (leaves), there is a penalty of one stroke.

o Arriving late for a starting time: What was previously a local rule is now a fixed part of the rules. For a player starting late, but within five minutes of his starting time, the penalty will be reduced from disqualification to loss of the first hole in match play or two strokes at the first hole in stroke play.

o Hole-in-one prizes for amateurs: The R&A has joined the USGA in exempting hole-in-one prizes from the stipulated prize limits for amateurs. This does not apply to long-drive or closest-to-the-pin prizes.

o Subsistence expenses for amateurs: A new rule allows an amateur golfer to receive subsistence expenses to assist with general living costs, provided the expenses are approved by and paid through the player's national golf union or association.

Because of golf's return to the Olympics, 2012 will go down in history as a landmark year for the unification of the Rules.

            Derek Duesler