Sweeping rules changes proposed to simplify the game of golf

MEXICO CITY — Sweeping changes could be coming to a golf course near you.

The U.S. Golf Association — which governs the rules of golf for the U.S. and Mexico — and the R&A — which governs the rest of the world — announced changes Wednesday morning that would simplify and reduce the number of main rules and definitions from 34 to 24. The governing bodies will allow for a six-month comment period with a proposed implementation date of Jan. 1, 2019.

“Our aim is to make the rules easier to follow and to apply for all golfers,” said David Rickman, executive director of governance for the R&A, in a press release. “We have looked at every rule to try to find ways of making them more intuitive and straightforward, and we believe we have identified many significant improvements.

“It is important that the rules continue to evolve and remain in tune with the way the modern game is played, but we have been careful not to change the game’s longstanding principles and character.”

Among the changes:

  • A player will not receive a penalty if the ball (or ball marker) accidentally moves on the putting green or in search of a ball.
  • Players can leave the flagstick in the hole while putting.
  • Players may repair spike marks or other damage on the green with no penalty.
  • Caddies will no longer be able to line up a player. This will be a big change on the LPGA tour, where many players have their caddies line them up before stepping away just before the player makes a swing.
  • Players who have trouble in bunkers could get relief. If you want, you can remove your ball from a bunker (and place it in the fairway or rough behind the bunker, depending on where the bunker is) and accept a two-stroke penalty.
  • A new procedure for how to drop a ball in a relief area.
  • Time searching for a lost ball would go from five minutes to three.
  • There's a proposal calling for players to take no more than 40 seconds to play their shot.

Tiger Woods took to Twitter early Wednesday to praise the changes. "Lots of thought & hard work by @USGA and @RandA to modernize our rules. Great work to benefit the game," Woods wrote.

Golfers are encouraged to review the proposed changes and submit comment via www.usga.org/rules or www.randa.org. Both organizations will accept information through Aug. 31.

USA TODAY


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