Time Saving, Common Sense Rules Proposed by Golf’s Governing Bodies

Scott Piercy
The Associated Press

The two leading organizations that govern the sport of golf worldwide have proposed rule changes that could dramatically alter the game for both professional and amateur golfers.

The USGA and R&A, who oversee two separate jurisdictions, but share a single code for the rules of golf and equipment standards, aim to simplify, eliminate, and bring a more common sense approach to the current rules of golf.

Incredibly, many of golf’s precepts defy logic and are arcane to the point that your most experienced amateur players, and even professionals, do not know the rules of the game. This reality prompts many golfers to carry the rule book in their golf bags to help avoid incurring penalty strokes during their rounds.

Having played golf for 4o years and caddied as a teenager, I’ve always thought it kind of random that if you hit your ball into a pond you may play it where it entered the hazard and are penalized 1 stroke. Yet, if you hit your ball into the rough just off the fairway and can’t find the ball, you take a 1 stroke penalty and you have to go all the way back to where you first struck the ball, effectively making it a two stroke penalty. This one hasn’t been addressed in the latest round of proposed changes, nevertheless, there are some good ones.

The USGA and the R&A, determined to streamline the rules, have come up with several modifications, revisions, and eliminations, that may help make the sport played by millions around the globe more enjoyable.

Below are a few of my favorite rule changes proposed by the USGA and the R&A:

—A Player who accidentally moves one’s ball during a search for it does not incur a penalty. Current rule 1 stroke penalty.

—A player who accidentally moves his ball or his ball marker on the green no longer would suffer a one stroke penalty.

—A new rule dictates that when taking a drop, a player needs only to hold the golf ball one inch above the ground. The current rule of dropping a ball from shoulder height often increases the balls chances of rolling too far and forcing the golfer to re-drop. This is time-consuming and often gives a player an opportunity to actually place the ball after three unsuccessful drops, giving him an unfair advantage.

—One can replace a ball on the putting green when it moves from its spot after it already had been lifted and replaced. Current rules dictate golfers have to putt a ball from where it stops for instance if it is blown further from the hole by the wind. The new rule allows for the golfer to replace the ball where it was before it moved. Makes sense to me.

—The old rule of incurring a two-stroke penalty if you sink a putt from the green with the pin in the cup would no longer apply. The player can now elect to putt with the pin in the cup at any time from any distance without incurring a penalty. Again makes sense. Why should a golfer be allowed to keep the pin in when putting off the green’s apron and not be allowed the pin when on the green.

—Players should make each stroke in no more than 40 seconds, and usually in less time. No penalty strokes are ascribed to this recommendation, but it is by far my favorite rule for amateurs. Nothing is more exasperating than playing with or following a high handicap golfer, who takes eight practice swings, then stands over his ball for another minute before he worm-burns his 7-wood 120 yards down the fairway. 

As the saying goes, “rules were made to be broken.” And you can bet these proposed ones will be broken too. That being said, click on the list to read about the explanation of all the proposed rule changes.