Golf chiefs unveil new rules to 'modernise' game

David Rickman The R&A's Director of Rules and Equipment Standards

David Rickman The R&A's Director of Rules and Equipment Standards

New regulations for dropping the ball and measures to speed up the pace of play have been incorporated into the new Rules of Golf announced by the R&A and the USGA.

The most notable changes made by golf's governing bodies include fresh directives on how to take a drop, as well as an alternate solution for dealing with a lost ball or when a ball goes out of bounds.

The R&A and USGA announced the final version of modernized rules on Monday.

What they settled on: 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.

Included among the significant rule changes are the following (several of these were simply finalized after their proposal last year).

After the proposal a year ago for golfers to measure relief by 20 inches or 80 inches, the standard one or two club lengths will remain.

The penalty for a double-hit - known to some fans as a "T.C. Chen", in honour of the golfer whose chances at the 1985 US Open came undone when he struck his ball twice with a single swing - has been eliminated, which was not the case under last year's proposed revisions.

Now golfers are obliged to return to the spot where they played the original shot and have another go having also incurred a one-shot penalty.

What they proposed: Within 20 inches or 80 inches, depending on the situation (taking relief from a cart path, say, or a lateral hazard).

This gives golfers the simpler, less time-consuming option of dropping in the vicinity of where their ball went out-of-bounds or missing, under a two-stroke penalty. Pagel said pace-of-play policies would keep that from happening, and it was a rule change that was needed for competition.

'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 couldn't be more excited to introduce the new Rules ahead of their education and implementation". A player is not responsible for causing a ball to move unless it is "virtually certain" that they did.

Relaxed putting green rules: There will be no penalty if a ball played from the putting green hits an unattended flagstick in the hole, and players may putt without having the flagstick attended or removed. One of them involves allowing golfers to fix spike marks in their putting line.

Relaxed bunker rules: There will be no penalty for moving loose impediments in a bunker or for generally touching the sand with a hand or club.

Relying on player integrity: A player's "reasonable judgement" when estimating or measuring a spot, point, line, area or distance will be upheld, even if video evidence later shows it to be wrong; and elimination of announcement procedures when lifting a ball to identify it or to see if it is damaged.

Club golfers will no longer have to endure the dreaded walk of shame back to the tee-box. PHOTO: Jeff Gross/Getty Images.

Pace-of-play support: The ruling bodies will reduce the time spent searching for a lost ball from five minutes to three; there is an affirmative encouragement of "ready golf" in stroke play; the ruling bodies are recommending that players take no more than 40 seconds to play a stroke; and there are other changes meant to help with pace of play. Golf now has a modern set of rules for the Royal & Ancient game.

One rule is only for recreational golf. The current edition of the Rules of Golf (2016) must be applied for the remainder of this year. The Rules of Amateur Status and the Rules of Equipment Standards were not part of this review process.

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