Proposed rule changes aim to help speed up golf


Proposed rule changes aim to help speed up golf
Sean Dudley
By Sean Dudley

The R&A and the United States Golf Association (USGA) have released a major set of proposed changes to the Rules of Golf. The changes are designed to “bring the Rules up to date to fit the needs of the game today globally”.

The two organisations have looked at the rules in their entirety. Major proposed changes include a new procedure for dropping a ball, the expansion of penalty areas beyond water hazards and the removal of numerous penalties.

Many of the rule changes help to promote faster pace of play. These include reducing the time allowed to search for a lost ball from five to three minutes, and encouraging putting with the flagstick left in the hole, by removing the current penalty that arises if a ball played from the putting green hits the unattended flagstick in the hole.

The R&A and the USGA are also recommending that players take no more than 40 seconds to take each stroke, and affirmatively encouraging ‘ready golf’ within stroke play, playing out of turn when it is safe to do so.

Club committees are also being encouraged to set a maximum score for a hole – such as double par or triple bogey. This will allow a player to pick up and move to the next hole more quickly.

“Our aim is to make the Rules easier to understand and to apply for all golfers,” said David Rickman, executive director of governance at The R&A. “We have looked at every Rule to try to find ways to make them more intuitive and straightforward and we believe we have identified many significant improvements. It is important that the Rules continue to evolve and remain in tune with the way the modern game is played but we have been careful not to change the game’s longstanding principles.”

The R&A and USGA have made a number of resources on the new rules available. These include an Overview of the Rules Modernisation Initiative, Draft New Rules of Golf for 2019, and Draft Player’s Edition of the New Rules of Golf for 2019, which is written from the perspective of ‘you’ the golfer.

People can give their feedback on the changed rules, which are set to come into play from the start of 2019, by completing a survey currently available on the R&A website. 

“We are excited and encouraged by the potential this work brings, both through the proposed new Rules and the opportunities to use technology to deliver them,” said Thomas Pagel, senior director of Rules & Amateur Status for the USGA. “We look forward to an ongoing conversation with golfers during the feedback period in the months ahead.”