A new Player’s Edition of the Rules of Golf was unveiled today as part of a drive to make a fresh set being introduced on 1 January, 2019, easier to understand.
The shorter, more user-friendly version is for players at levels of the sport, with 4 million copies in 30 different languages set to be distributed around the world by the game’s two governing bodies, the R&A and USGA.
The new set of Rules feature the most significant changes in more than 30 years and the Player’s Edition has been produced in a simpler, more direct writing style than the main version.
It also features easy-to-follow diagrams and charts to aid people in understanding the Rules, which have often been criticised for being too complicated.
“That is a shorter version of the Rules, one that emphasises the purpose of the Rules. It uses more diagrams and illustrations than we have ever done before,” said David Rickman, Executive Director – Governance at the R&A.
“A Player’s Edition has been part of our thinking probably for about five years. It took us a while to establish excatly what we wanted because it’s not a summary of the Rules.
“We felt it was important that players can rely on this version and, therefore, it needs to be accurate and complete in terms of those commonly occuring situations.
“That’s why it’s numbering is exactly the same. It’s written in the second person rather than the third person. It refers to the player and that’s been deliberate.”
The roll out process started at the weekend and the initial reaction to the Player’s Edition has been positive. One match secretary at a Fife club wrote on Twitter: “The golfing authorities often get slated, but deserve credit for the new rule book which is much more illustrated and uses plain English for a change. Purpose of each rule also explained and makes understanding the rules easier.”
Reacting to that feedback, Rickman said: “More of that would be great. There’s a lot of information coming the way of all golfers and we hope that between now and 1 January that golfers will take a bit of time to become familiar with the Rules so that they can put them into effect on 1 January.”
The process to modernise the Rules began in 2012 with the aim of making them easier to understand and apply for all golfers and to help make golf more appealing and accessible for newcomers.
Some of the key changes in the new Rules include new procedures for dropping the ball when taking relief, the elimination or reduction of several penalties, relaxed putting green and bunker rules, and rules that encourage improved pace of play.
“I think the changes themselves are the biggest set of changes in a generation,” said Rickman. “I also think the presentation of the Rules are unprecedented, some of which admittedly are technology-driven.
“I think that we have successfully married a respect for the traditions of the sport, we have largely left those big fundamentals of golf and what makes it challenging and an exciting sport to play, but, at the same time, been able to strip out some of the technicalities, some of the complexities and some of the unnecessary penalties.
“I think in our world this is pretty significant stuff and while we completely understand that we can’t solve all the challenges that the sport faces going forward, I do think that a simpler and more intuitive Rule book makes a valuable contribution to modernising our sport, making it clear that it is a sport for anyone who wants to play it.
“I think Rules of any kind have that negative connotation and I understand that. But I do think what we are trying to do here is explain the rationale for the Rules. They are about giving the game structure and this is about explaining to golfers what their options are.
“I think we are trying to shift perception here and have people view the Rules not so much as a necessary evil but as an important foundation upon which the game is built and they are about ensuring players know what to do. They are there to help them as much as anything else.”