Be honest, how many of you have ever actually opened up the Rules of Golf? If you weren’t a lawyer, or didn’t have about eight letters after your name, they were incomprehensible and forgettable.
So let’s give credit to the rules chiefs at the R&A and USGA for realising lots of people didn’t have degrees in golf and setting about simplifying the laws that govern our great sport.
They’ve been reduced in number from 34 to 24 and a new Player’s Edition has been published to make them more accessible to everybody.
They’ve also been publicised in a campaign to rival any presidential election but, if you’ve had your head in the sand and still don’t have a clue what’s about to come in, strap yourselves in as we look at some of the key changes…
You no longer drop the ball from shoulder height
You used to drop the ball from shoulder height. You now drop it from knee height. It really is that simple.
It doesn’t matter whether you are bending over or kneeling down to do it. Just make sure you do it from knee height.
This is all made much easier if you pop a tee peg down first and establish a relief area.
Why is this important? Because when you drop, the ball must come to rest within the relief area. If it doesn’t you have to repeat the drop.
How do you know if it’s landed in that relief area if you haven’t established where that is?
Can’t be bothered to take out the flagstick? Not a problem
Hooray. We all did this when it wasn’t a competition anyway so it’s about time this has been established in the rules. Now when your playing partner is raking the bunker after flubbing one a yard out of the sand, you can just go ahead and putt.
Are you going to go all DeChambeau and try and hole it from short range with the flagstick still in? That’s one for you to decide but it should definitely speed up play when you’re lining up a 60-footer.
You’ll also be allowed to touch the line of a putt but just don’t go improving it. That’s still not allowed.
Those pesky spike marks will no longer spoil your round
We’ve all got one less excuse for missing a putt. No longer can you blame spikemarks on your line because you are now allowed to repair them.
In fact, the new Rules of Golf say you can repair pretty much any damage to a green made by shoes, animals or almost anything else of which you can think.
Don’t get smart, though. Carrying out a bit of landscape gardening to repair the holes made by greenkeepers during their regular maintenance work is still a big no no.
Found a bunker? Relax
How many of you have lost your balance trying not to ground your club in a bunker only to stumble head over heels and plonk your sand wedge straight into the fine stuff?
Now generally touching the sand with a hand or club is allowed. You still won’t be able to start building sand castles behind your ball, or an elaborate tee, because grounding your club there is still forbidden.
Don’t start taking practice swings either to gauge the consistency of the sand.
If you find yourself in an awful plugged lie, with no hope of escape unless you make a dozen swings, the new rules provide another option for you.
You can declare your ball unplayable and take it outside the trap. Drop on a line and play on. You will, though, have to add a two-stroke penalty.
What about looking time? Or if you double hit? Our dummy’s guide to the Rules of Golf continues on the next page with these and more…