Following an exhaustive, four-year review of golf’s 34 playing Rules, nine principal Rules have been amended to improve clarity and ensure penalties are proportionate.
Significant changes include:
Â· 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.
Â· 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.
Â· 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.
Commenting on the revisions to the Rules of Golf supported by Rolex, The R&A’s Director of Rules and Equipment Standards David Rickman said: “The key point is that the Rules of Golf will remain fundamentally the same. We have undergone a pretty extensive review although what has come out of that has been relatively modest.
“The Rules of Golf are constantly evolving and our hope is that what we have produced for 2012 is clear, informed by common sense and reflective of the demands of the modern game.”
Padraig Harrington, three-time Major winner and R&A – Working for Golf Ambassador, said: “I am delighted with the changes, in particular the ball moving after address. Every time the wind blows I am worried that my ball is going to move and I am worried about grounding my putter, distracting me from trying to hole my putt.
“This change will speed up play, there won’t be as many suspensions and players won’t be getting penalised or disqualified unfairly. It is definitely giving us players a little bit of a break.”
Further to the changes, amateur golfers will be allowed to play for unlimited hole-in-one prizes under revisions to the Rules of Amateur Status announced by The R&A.
Until now, prizes for holing a tee shot in amateur golf have been subject to the same restrictions as other competitions, including longest drive and nearest the hole. However, a Rule change which acknowledges the special nature of a hole-in-one during a round of golf means that restrictions on the prizes offered have been lifted.
Click here to view the principal changes to the Rules of Golf 2012-2015 and a series of videos explaining the new updates.