New golf rules go into effect, should make life easier for many players
By Alan Blondin
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – The United States Golf Association and R&A have revised some rules for the 2016 Rules of Golf that became effective Jan. 1, and the changes generally make it easier on players, giving them more of a break in the event of certain rules violations and circumstances.
They allow a player to avoid disqualification in some instances when signing an incorrect scorecard, eliminate a penalty for a ball moving when it's not the result of a player's actions, and allow a player to avoid disqualification for a first offense usage of an impermissible artificial device such as a training aid or GPS rangefinder with slope factored into the measurement.
The much-discussed ban on anchoring Rule 14-1b (Anchoring the Club) as announced in 2013 also took effect on Jan. 1. The penalty is loss of a hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play.
The new rule book is the culmination of the normal four-year review cycle and is a collaborative work by The R&A and the USGA that applies worldwide to all golfers.
The USGA is responsible for administering the Rules of Golf and Rules of Amateur Status in the United States and its territories and Mexico. The R&A governs golf nearly worldwide in 138 countries.
The ultimate penalty in golf is disqualification, and that severe fate has been administered to players who signed for a score that was lower than what they actually shot under Rule 6-6d (Wrong Score for Hole).
A player will no longer be disqualified for returning a lower score for a hole than actually taken as a result of failing to include penalty strokes that the player was not aware of when he/she signed the scorecard. The penalty strokes for the rules violation will be added and the additional penalty is now two strokes for signing an incorrect scorecard.
Lew Gach, a Golf Academy of America rules instructor and co-chairman of the Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship rules committee, believes Rule 6-6d will likely result in more rules breaches being brought to the attention of rules officials.
"Rule 6-6 will be a big deal … because that has always been one of the major reasons for rules violations," Gach said. "Now when they just have to add that penalty plus an additional two strokes for breach of Rule 6-6, they won't be automatically disqualified."
A player signing for a score that is higher on a hole than what he/she actually shot still has to accept the higher score. Roberto de Vicenzo famously missed out on a playoff with Bob Goalby in the 1968 Masters by signing for 4 on the 17th hole rather than a 3 and a final-round 66 rather than a 65.
Rule 18-2b, Ball Moving After Address, has been withdrawn. Under Rule 18-2b, a player whose ball moved after address was automatically presumed to have caused the ball to move.
After instances on the PGA Tour and other tours in which players were penalized when it was clear they played no part in the ball movement, Exception to Rule 18-2b was introduced in 2012 to cover situations where it was known or virtually certain that the player had not caused the ball to move. Now the rule has been completely withdrawn, exonerating a player from a penalty if his ball moves due to a natural force such as wind. If a player causes a ball to move, the penalty is one stroke.
The penalty for a player's first breach of Rule 14-3 (Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment and Abnormal Use of Equipment) during the round has been reduced from disqualification to loss of a hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play. The penalty for any subsequent breach of Rule 14-3 will continue to be disqualification.
So the new rules give golfers more opportunities to continue playing in an event or match following a rules breach.
The USGA has also tried to make life easier for amateur golfers with a couple primary changes to rules governing amateur status.
Amateurs can play for prizes not exceeding $750 in value but have been previously unable to play for prize money. New Rule 3-1b enables them to play for prize money or its equivalent if it is donated to a recognized charity, provided the organizers gain approval of the governing body in advance of the event.
The R&A and USGA cited the growing number of charitable golf exhibitions benefiting worthwhile causes and disaster relief agencies as a consideration for the new rule.
Rule 4-4 clarifies that amateurs may receive reasonable expenses, not exceeding actual expenses incurred, for non-competition golf-related activities. So they can receive travel and lodging expenses to tournaments, not including tournament entry fees.
This article was written by Alan Blondin from The Sun News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.