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changes to the rules of golf

Have you missed these hidden changes in the new Rules of Golf?

The new rules have been in play since the start of the year, but among the high profile changes are some others that dropped in under the radar. Steve Carroll reveals six of the best
 

Fed up of the hearing about the rules yet? You might want to make sure you’re up to date with the changes to the Rules of Golf.

You’ve had flagsticks, drops and penalty areas rammed down your throats for the past six weeks – and the furore surrounding Haotong Li and Denny McCarthy means it’s showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

In the run up to their introduction on January 1, the R&A and USGA issued a checklist of the 20 most important changes that all golfers needed to know to get round the course intact.

But they weren’t the only alterations that came out of the near seven-year process to bring the Rules of Golf up to date.

There are a number of more, shall we say, obscure refinements that might have passed you by.

So, thanks to the help of England Golf championship panel referee Paul Jordan-Worrall, here are six examples of some of the more concealed changes to the Rules of Golf that you might one day need to know.

Changes to the Rules of Golf

1. In foursomes, who can drop – you or your partner?

rules of golf

If you asked this question before January 1 you would have received the following answer – only the player whose turn it was to play could drop and place balls for the pair.

Now, thanks to Rule 22.2, either partner can take this action.

And, in fourballs, Rule 23.5 reveals a “player may take any action concerning the partner’s ball that the partner is allowed to take before making a stroke”.

That means marking the spot and lifting, replacing, dropping or placing the ball. Before, in most instances, each player had to deal with their own ball.

2. Did you drop a club onto your ball when taking relief? Don’t worry

You drop a ball when taking relief and reach down to lift the tee that was marking the relief area. When standing up, you accidentally drop a club you were holding which falls, hits and moves the ball in play.

This was a penalty last year. But, under interpretation 4 of rule 9.4b, it isn’t any more. The rule states that even though you’ve already dropped a ball to take relief, the ball is classed to have moved “while” you were taking relief.

In fact, this accidental movement also applies, when off the green, to marking the spot, lifting or replacing a ball and removing a movable obstruction.

3. You can leave a non-conforming club in your bag. But please don’t use it

Remember that club you damaged during your last round and is now non-conforming?

If you forget to take it out of your bag you will no longer receive the two or four stroke penalty you would have suffered last year.

It still counts as one of your 14 clubs, but you won’t get penalised unless you make a stroke with it.

It’s bad news if you do, though. Under Rule 4.1a, disqualification awaits.

Head to the next page for more changes to the Rules of Golf you may have missed, including what you can and can’t use to measure wind, and a pretty significant rewrite on how we see bunkers…

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Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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