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Golf's rules have been long overdue an overhaul and that's what its governing bodies have planned.
Golf's rules have been long overdue an overhaul and that's what its governing bodies have planned.
Image: Ted S. Warren/AP/Press Association Images

Golf set for its biggest rules shake-up in centuries

It’s hoped the new rules will help to speed up play.
Mar 1st 2017, 4:33 PM 10,737 9

GOLF RULEMAKERS THE R&A and United States Golf Association (USGA) today unveiled a radical set of new rule proposals they hope will simplify the game and also speed up play.

The two bodies have eliminated many penalties including being penalised for accidentally moving your ball marker on the green and reduced the number of rules from 34 to 24.

The R&A is seeking feedback on the proposals until the end of August, with any amendments to be made before the new rules come into effect from January 1, 2019.

With regards to speeding up the game one of the proposals is for reducing the search time for lost balls from five minutes to three, whilst allowing players to drop a ball from any height when taking relief, rather than shoulder-height as is the case at the moment.

“We are really about modernising the rules of golf and, in very simple terms, trying to make them easier to understand and apply,” David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director, governance, told Press Association Sport.

“The concern was that, over time and despite our best efforts, the rules have grown in length and complexity and therefore have become confusing and intimidating.”

One area which may provoke a heated debate — especially on the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour, where it is most prevalent — is forbidding caddies to help players line up putts.

“Even though it may be unpopular in some parts of the game, a reinforcement of player skill and judgement was important,” said Rickman.


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Another measure designed to speed up a round is professionals will not have to repair spike marks made by their boots and one of the generally regarded unfairer rules where a player was penalised for being struck by their ball has been recommeended to be discarded.

The removal of the obligation of dropping balls from shoulder-height will prevent 10-minute hold-ups — as was the case last year with Jordan Spieth at the US PGA Championship.

“That took longer because of the intricacy involved and the ability for players to be more precise means this can be sped up,” Rickman added.

“The dropping process can be quite lengthy. You can have a very small dropping area and every time you miss it, that drop doesn’t count and you need to re-drop if it rolls to any of nine specific places.”

Video reviews will still be used to determine if rules have been breached, but not to “second guess” players who need to estimate where a ball may have entered or last crossed a hazard.

“We expect players to use all reasonable judgement and in those circumstances, if that proves to be wrong, as long as they acted reasonably we would not be seeking to punish based on later evidence,” Rickman said.

- AFP 2017

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