USGA and R&A have spent the last 4 years reviewing golf’s 34 playing rules and rules of amateur status, and have come up with a few changes in order to improve their clarity and make sure that the penalties are proportionate (I am guessing that means fitting to the crime, but hey, I am not the rule maker)
“We have produced a unified code of the Rules of Golf for 60 years and although the context has been the same, we often found the perception that there were different rules in place depending upon where you were to play the game,” said USGA Senior Director of Rules of Golf Thomas Pagel. “Now the book will not only have the same content, but it will also be presented in a uniform fashion.”
They decided to change 9 principal rules, but here are the the ones that are the biggest changes:
- Ball Moving After Address (Rule 18-2b). A new exception is added which exonerates the player from penalty if their ball moves after it has been addressed when it is known or virtually certain that they did not cause the ball to move. For example, if it is a gust of wind that moves the ball after it has been addressed, there is no penalty and the ball is played from its new position.
- Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions (Rule 13-4). Exception 2 to this Rule is amended to permit a player to smooth sand or soil in a hazard at any time, including before playing from that hazard, provided it is for the sole purpose of caring for the course and Rule 13-2 (improving lie, area of intended stance or swing or line of play) is not breached.
- Time of Starting (Rule 6-3a). The rule is amended to provide that the penalty for starting late, but within five minutes of the starting time, is reduced from disqualification to loss of the first hole in match play or two strokes at the first hole in stroke play. Previously this penalty reduction could be introduced as a condition of competition.
Three-time major champion Padraig Harrington commented:
“I am delighted with the changes, in particular the ball moving after address. This change will speed up play, there won’t be as many suspensions and players won’t be getting penalized or disqualified unfairly.”
There were several changes in relation to players’ amateur status as well. The most important of the new rules are:
- Professionalism; Contracts and Agreements (New Rule 2-2(a)). An amateur golfer may now enter into a contract and/or agreement with his national golf union or association, provided the golfer does not obtain any financial gain, directly or indirectly, while still an amateur golfer.
- Professional Agents, Sponsors and Other Third Parties (New Rule 2-2(b)). An amateur golfer who is at least 18 years of age may enter into a contract and/or agreement with a third party solely in relation to the golfer’s future as a professional golfer, provided the golfer does not obtain any financial gain, directly or indirectly, and is not required to play in certain amateur or professional events, while still an amateur golfer.
- Subsistence Expenses (Rule 4-3). An amateur golfer may receive reasonable subsistence expenses, not exceeding actual costs, to assist with general living costs, provided the expenses are approved by and paid through the golfer’s national golf union or association.
So they if you are an amateur looking to go pro! You should definitely check out some of these new rules in more depth! Both the USGA and R&A websites have been updated with full text and videos explaining the updated rules.