A proposal that a penalty drop could be taken from any height has been changed to knee height by the R&A and USGA in the new Rules of Golf, set to to be implemented at the beginning of next year.
The removal of a penalty for a double hit and a new Local Rule at club level to allow golfers the option to drop the ball in the vicinity of where the ball is lost or out of bounds under a two-stroke penalty are also in the modernised Rules.
The new set have been finalised after an extensive review that included a request for feedback from the global golf community on the proposed changes.
“We are pleased to be introducing the new Rules of Golf after a collaborative and wide-ranging review process which has embraced the views of golfers, rules experts and administrators worldwide,” said David Rickman, Executive Director – Governance at the R&A.
“We believe that the new Rules are more in tune with what golfers would like and are easier to understand and apply for everyone who enjoys playing this great game.”
The most significant adjustments include:
Dropping procedure: When taking relief (from an abnormal course condition or penalty area, for example), golfers will now drop from knee height. This will ensure consistency and simplicity in the dropping process while also preserving the randomness of the drop. (Key change: the proposed Rules released in 2017 suggested dropping from any height).
Measuring in taking relief: The golfer’s relief area will be measured by using the longest club in his/her bag (other than a putter) to measure one club-length or two club-lengths, depending on the situation, providing a consistent process for golfers to establish his/her relief area. (Key change: the proposed Rules released in 2017 suggested a 20-inch or 80-inch standard measurement).
Removing the penalty for a double hit: The penalty stroke for accidentally striking the ball more than once in the course of a stroke has been removed. Golfers will simply count the one stroke they made to strike the ball. (Key change: the proposed Rules released in 2017 included the existing one-stroke penalty).
Balls Lost or Out of Bounds: Alternative to Stroke and Distance: A new Local Rule will now be available in January 2019, permitting committees to allow golfers the option to drop the ball in the vicinity of where the ball is lost or out of bounds (including the nearest fairway area), under a two-stroke penalty. It addresses concerns raised at the club level about the negative impact on pace of play when a player is required to go back under stroke and distance. The Local Rule is not intended for higher levels of play, such as professional or elite level competitions `(Key change: this is a new addition to support pace of play)
“We’re thankful for the golfers, administrators and everyone in the game who took the time to provide us with great insight and thoughtful feedback,” added the USGA Senior Director of Rules & Amateur Status, Thomas Pagel. “We couldn’t be more excited to introduce the new Rules ahead of their education and implementation.”
Major proposals introduced in 2017 that have been incorporated into the modernised Rules include elimination or reduction of “ball moved” penalties; relaxed putting green rules; relaxed rules for “penalty areas”; relaxed bunker rules; relying on player integrity and pace-of-play support.
The latter includes a reduced time for searching for a lost ball (from five minutes to three); affirmative encouragement of “ready golf” in stroke play and recommending that players take no more than 40 seconds to play a stroke.