Golf’s rules to be ‘modernised’

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Golf’s rules are being changed to make them easier to understand and also help improve pace of play in the game.

Significant proposed alterations to the Rules of Golf, which were first drawn up in 1744, have been unveiled by the sport’s two ruling bodies, the R&A and USGA.

The main thrust of an exercise that began five years ago has been to try and “modernise” the rules and make them “more consistent, simple and fair”.

The major changes being prosposed are:

* No penalty if your ball accidentally moves while searching for it or if you accidentally move your ball or ball-marker on the green.

* No penalty if a ball accidentally hits you, your equipment, your caddie or someone attending the flagstick.

* A drop no longer needs to be from shoulder height; the only requirement is that you hold the ball above the ground.

* The time permitted for searching for a ball has been reduced from five to three minutes.

* No penalty for hitting an unattended flagstick with a putt from on the green.

* No penalty if you touch or move loose impediments in a bunker.

* For two penalty strokes, players can take relief outside a bunker.

In an effort to promote a faster pace of play in the game, ‘ready golf’ is being encouraged, as is taking no more than 40 seconds for each stroke.

The changes are also proposing a new “maximum score” in stroke-play, where a score is capped in a bid to encourage players to pick up if they are above that figure.

“The R&A and the USGA are pleased to announce a major set of proposed changes to the Rules of Golf,” said the two bodies in a joint-announcement.

“These changes result from our ‘rules modernisation’ initiative that began five years ago in an effort to bring the Rules up to date to fit the needs of the game today globally.

“We want the Rules of Golf to be more easily understood and applied by all golfers; be more consistent, simple and fair; and reinforce the game’s longstanding principles and character.

“Given the unusual scope of this initiative, we want golfers and others in the golf community to have a chance to give us their feedback.

“We encourage golfers to review the proposed changes, to try them out on the course over the next few months, and to let us know their thoughts.

“We will consider all input as we continue our work to finish the new Rules by early 2018. We plan to put them into effect on January 1, 2019.”