A Look at the Revised Rules of Golf
- The number of rules will be reduced from 34 to 24
- The rules book will be revised and changed, focusing on just what the player needs to know; committee-related items will be published in a separate document.
- Decision on the Rules will be moved into the body of the Rules to allow readers one source to find all the information they need.
- The Decision Book will be replaced with a Handbook that will give interpretive guidance rather than covering case-by-casescenarios.
Along with formatting changes, There are a significant number of changes to the actual rules that are proposed. Key Changes include:
- There would no longer be a penalty if a ball played from the putting green hits an unattended flagstick in the hole.
- The term "water hazards" will be superseded by the concept of "penalty areas" Which allows a committee in charge of competition or the official of a club to mark areas that allow for safety and pace of play considerations. Players would also be allowed to ground their club in these areas or move loose impediments without penalty. Along the same line, there would no longer be a penalty for moving/touching loose impediments in a penalty area or when one's ball is in the bunker.
- Fixed distances would be used to define an area in which a ball is to be dropped rather than club-lengths. Twenty inches would replace one club-length and eighty inches would replace two club-lengths. This would allow for a more standardized area and more consistency when dropping. In addition to this, dropping a ball has been simplified to allow a drop from any height above the ground.
- Damage on the putting green caused by spike marks, shoe damage, animal damage, etc. can be fixed without penalty as long as play is not delayed.
- The concept of a format with a "maximum score" for each hole can be introduced by a committee to help pace of play.
The goal of the proposed changes is to make the rules easier to understand and apply and be more consistent while maintaining the principles of the game. From now until August 2017 players are encouraged to try out the proposed rules (no posting scores with rounds played under proposed rules) and give feedback to the USGA. The USGA and R&A will review the feedback and finalize the proposed changes. The new rules of golf are scheduled to go into effect January 1, 2019.