Why the authorities should be applauded for their changes to the Rules of Golf

Rules of Golf

NCG columnist Colin Callander explains why the 2019 changes to the Rules of Golf are more than welcome – and overdue

The R&A and the USGA published their new Rules of Golf last month after more than six years of deliberation and discussions.

It has been a massive task for the authorities on both sides of the Atlantic but one which has resulted both in a complete overhaul of the Rules and the way they are presented to golfers.

The emphasis has been placed firmly on simplifying the Rules and making them easier to understand, which has got to be a good thing as efforts to attract more newcomers into the game are intensified.

The changes are bound to cause some initial confusion among existing golfers but, to my mind at least, there is much to commend.

That starts with the fact that the total number of Rules has been cut from 34 to 24. I also like the fact that many elements of Ready Golf have been included in the new Rules and that the authorities have added guidelines on pace of play.

The new Rule 5.6b gives general advice on prompt pace of play and recommends that no golfer should take move than 40 seconds to play a shot. It should not take anything like that long, but at least it is a start.

Another bugbear of mine was the way some tour players got their caddies to line them up before hitting a shot but, come January 1, 2019, when the new Rules come into effect, that practice will be outlawed.

I also like the decision to allow golfers to move loose impediments in bunkers and think that the simplifications to the Rules governing Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions and Red and Yellow Hazards (now Penalty Areas) can only help with what previously have always been two of the most misunderstood areas of the Rules.

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I think the decision to scrap the penalty for an accidental double hit also makes sense, as does the removal of the penalty if you accidentally move your ball on a green, but I do have misgivings in some areas, not least with the new Rule 13.1c which allows golfers not just to repair pitchmarks on greens but also spike marks, animal tracks, indentations and embedded objects.

That, I believe, can only detract from the other initiatives the lawmakers have introduced in an attempt to speed up play.

It should be said there is a caveat to this Rule, which states that such damage can only be repaired “without unreasonably delaying play”, but quite how this can be administered in day-to-day play remains to be seen.

We will all have our own thoughts on the merit of each individual Rule but surely no-one can have any qualms about the manner which the authorities have simplified and modernised the language used in their publications.

Over the years, I have lost count of the number of times people have told me they found the old Rule book impenetrable but that is not a charge that can be labelled anymore, particularly given the introduction of the first ever Player’s Edition of the Rules of Golf.

Its introduction may well be the best initiative of the lot, one which more than anything else will lead to golfers having a better understanding of the Rules.

The authorities are keen to point out the new Player’s Edition of the Rules of Golf “is not a quick guide, but rather an abridged version of the Rules of Golf that is written with a focus on you, the golfer”.

It highlights the Rules that are most relevant to you, is written in the second person, with shorter sentences and informative diagrams and is designed to be used in conjunction with the full edition of the Rules of Golf and The Official Guide to the Rules of Golf, the “guidebook” that replaces the old Decisions on the Rules of Golf.

Two million copies in 39 different languages are to be distributed around the world. I suggest you get your hands on one and wager if you do, it will go straight into your bag.

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