Mar 14th, 2018

A change is a comin'... big rules overhaul in golf

But what about fairway divots?...

It's going to be easier to understand and faster to play. But... you're still going to have to play from divots in the fairway... Get ready for golf 2019...

The R&A and United States Golf Association (USGA) have made some alterations to proposals released for public consultation last year but the majority of the proposed changes will remain and that should mean that pace of play will be improved. Just as importantly, the rules will be easier to get your head around.

A change is a comin'... big rules overhaul in golf

Some highlights that will come into play january 1st, 2019:

- The flag will be allowed to remain in the hole unattended while putting come into force on 1 January.

- There will be no penalty for removing loose impediments from bunkers and the time allowed for searching for lost balls will be reduced from five minutes to three.

- Players will be able to take penalty, or free, drops from knee height (not the initially proposed one inch above the ground).

- A player's "reasonable judgment" when estimating or measuring a spot, point, line, area or distance will be upheld, even if video evidence later shows it to be wrong.

- The distance used to determine where a drop is taken will remain determined by club length, rather than the original proposal of 20 or 80 inches. Players will be able to select their longest club - but not their putter - for these measurements.

- Penalties for accidentally striking your ball twice in the course of a shot have been removed and regulations governing instances when a ball is lost or goes out of bounds will be relaxed.

- Currently 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. From next year golf clubs can adopt a local rule which would 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.

A change is a comin'... big rules overhaul in golf

- But you will stay have to play your ball from a fairway divot... surely some mistake?...

Surely with the new rule changes being aimed at greater reliance on golfer's integrity, your playing partners can help you decide if your ball is submerged in some hacker's 3-inch-deep dirty protest or just sitting on an old, recovered divot?

"We debated it quite seriously," said David Rickman, the R&A's executive director of governance to BBC Sport. "While some divots are easy to identify and distinguish from other damaged areas, as a divot gets older that becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish from a bad lie.

"So I think there are practical difficulties and philosophically one of the fundamental tenets of the game is that you play the ball as it lies."

A change is a comin'... big rules overhaul in golf

"You hit it there so you should play the ball from where you hit it and we want this game to be as quick as we can reasonably make it. Playing the ball as it lies and playing the course as you find it are fundamental aspects of the sport."

Can't agree with that one, I'm afraid.

"Our previous proposal had a number of difficulties with it, particularly around how close certain players would get to the ground in certain circumstances," said Rickman.

"Knee-height drops gave us that balance, gave us the ability to preserve the randomness of the drop. But by being significantly lower than shoulder height and by allowing a player to get their eyes over the ball, they can be much more precise in terms of the dropping procedure.

"This addresses concerns raised at club level about the negative impact on the pace of play when a player is required to go back to the original spot. The local rule is not intended for professional or elite-level competitions."

Fair play and great that these changes are being made. Golf needs to get with the times and this will help. I just hope I don't land in any more fairway bloody divots...


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A change is a comin'... big rules overhaul in golf


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