March - 2017
YOUR CHANCE TO HAVE AN INPUT ON CHANGING THE RULES OF GOLF.
Because of the monumental changes likely to occur in the rules of golf in the not too distant future, I am holding in abeyance for a month or two, the discussion of the last two months on the rules associated with dropping the golf ball because the ball was lost, out of bounds, in ground under repair, in a water hazard, etc., and will instead, for at least the next month, give each of you the chance to review the impending changes and the opportunity to make your feelings known to the two governing bodies associated with the rules of golf, namely, the United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Association. What you will be reading below is what those two bodies have disclosed are possible changes to the rules of golf, subject to open discussion by the world's golfers with the goal of completely modifying the rules by January 2019.
So, here's your chance to affect how the game is played. Read the proposals carefully. Digest them. Apply to them your pet peeves (you know you have them). And then make your feelings known. (the links to the two governing bodies will be found at the end of this discussion).
What began in 2012 with small discussions from key members of golf's governing bodies about what to do with a set of rules that many felt were unwieldy, undesirable and, often, unintelligible has evolved into a large-scale attempt to revise the way the game is played. The result of this five-year dialogue was finally revealed on March 1st.
The most likely scenario: Starting in 2019, the Rules of Golf, authored jointly by the United States Golf Association and the R&A, and used by millions of golfers worldwide, will look very different than it does now.
"There was a recognition on both sides of the pond to take a new look at it, an agreement to put everything on the table and do something good for the game," says John Bodenhamer, USGA senior managing director of rules, competitions and equipment standards. "We're very happy with what we've come up with and excited to see how golfers of all levels feel about what we're proposing."
The proposal includes publishing a simpler version of the rules called the Players Handbook. It will be a reference guide to the most common rules situations encountered during a round. It will be written in language more recognized by golfers around the globe, instead of the legalese found in the current book. And if you're wondering what becomes of the voluminous Decisions on the Rules of Golf, it will now be known as The Handbook.
CURRENTLY THERE ARE 34 RULES, AND THE PROPOSAL IS FOR A SMALLER AND EASIER-TO-UNDERSTAND BOOK WITH 24. TO DO THIS, USGA AND R&A OFFICIALS WANT TO CONSOLIDATE MANY OF RULES SECTIONS.
Before anything is changed, everyday golfers will have several months to write, email or call the USGA and give their opinion about the rules they want to change, the rules they haven't changed and what you would change. Once that comment period is done on Aug. 31, rules makers say they will review the feedback, finalize a new set of procedures and penalties, and announce them early in 2018 for 2019 implementation.
The Highlights include the following with greater details of each area following these highlights:
Here's the greater detail of each area:
THE PUTTING GREEN
If you accidentally move your ball or ball-marker on the putting green, there is no penalty. Just put it back.
If you've lifted and replaced your ball on the putting green and it moves, move it back to its original spot no matter whether wind moved it, or there was no clear reason.
You can repair almost any damage on the putting green including spike marks and animal damage. You cannot repair natural imperfections.
So long as you don't improve the conditions for your stroke, you can touch the line of putt to indicate a target. Currently: Touching the line comes with a penalty of loss of hole (match play) or two shots (stroke play).
You can leave the unattended flagstick in when your ball is on the putting green, and there is no penalty if your ball strikes it.
The term water hazards is being changed to penalty areas and will consist of red- and yellow-marked areas. This could include additional areas that don't contain water such as desert, jungle, lava rock, etc. If your ball winds up in one of these areas, a one-stroke penalty is applied if you take relief.
You can move loose impediments in penalty areas, touch the ground with your hand or club, or ground your club without penalty.
Committees are allowed to mark all penalty areas as red so that lateral relief is always allowed. They can, however, mark a penalty area yellow (no lateral relief) when they feel it's appropriate.
You can't drop on the opposite side from where the ball last entered a penalty area marked red.
You can touch and move a loose impediment in a bunker when your ball is in that bunker.
You can take a two-stroke penalty to obtain relief outside a bunker on a line from the hole through where the ball was at rest in the sand.
BALL AT REST
You are only considered to have caused your ball to move if it is virtually certain (at least 95 percent likely) that you were the cause.
No matter where you are on the course, there is no penalty if you accidentally move your ball while searching for it. Just replace it.
If your ball is lying off the putting green when it moves, and its original spot isn't known, you just replace it on the estimated spot. An example: If your ball was buried in matted-down grass, replace it in the estimated spot, buried in matted-down grass.
BALL IN MOTION
If your ball accidentally strikes you, your caddie, your opponent or any equipment, there is no penalty. Play it as it lies. But you cannot deliberately try to carom a shot off your equipment.
The only requirements when taking a drop are to hold the ball above the ground without it touching any object, and it must fall through the air before coming to rest. Height is not a requirement.
When a ball must be dropped, it has to be in a defined relief area.
A dropped ball must come to rest in the relief area where it was dropped or it must be dropped again.
You can substitute a ball when taking relief.
You can take free relief for an embedded ball anywhere in the general area (formerly "through the green") of the course except sand (unless a Local Rule is enacted to make free relief available only for embedded balls in areas cut to fairway height or less).
When estimating or measuring a spot, point, line, area or distance under a rule, you will not be second-guessed later using evidence such as video review. This applies so long as you use reasonable judgment and do all you reasonably can to make an accurate measurement.
You can use distance-measuring devices such as laser rangefinders and GPS watches during a round unless a Local Rule is adopted prohibiting their use.
You can use a club damaged during a round.
You can't replace a damaged club during a round unless you were not responsible for its condition.
If you have a good reason for lifting a ball, such as to identify it, check for damage or determine if it lies in a condition where relief is permitted (such as checking to see if it's embedded), you don't have to announce your intention to another player or the marker. You also don't have to give that person an opportunity to observe the process.
Your caddie can't stand on a line behind you from the time you take your stance until the stroke is made.
Your caddie can lift and replace your ball on the putting green without specific authorization from you.
PACE OF PLAY
A new form of stroke play is recognized where your maximum score for a hole is capped (such as double par or triple bogey). That max score is set by the committee.
Players in stroke play are encouraged to play "ready golf" when it can be done in a safe and responsible way and opponents in a match play can agree to go out of turn in order to save time.
Committees can adopt their own codes of player conduct and set penalties for breach of standards in that code.
OTHER RULES OF NOTE
You have to declare you're playing a provisional ball before making a stroke with it. But you can begin a search, and still have the option of playing a provisional so long as you do so within three minutes.
You're allowed to listen to or watch sporting events, news broadcasts or music as "entertainment" during a round if it doesn't give you an advantage when playing. It would be a penalty, for example, if you were listening because it improves your rhythm or relaxes you, but not if you wanted to share a new song you love with other members of your group.
You now have the mandate to make your feelings known. You must submit your ideas no later than August 31st of this year. If you're one of the thousands that complain about not being able to take relief from your ball in a divot, here's your chance to get that rule changed, among a myriad of others. Here's the e-mail links: http://www.usga.org/rules-hub/rules-modernization/feedback-landing-page.html
Hit em straight and I'll see you at the Muni.