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How will rule changes affect golf?

Closeup of a golf ball

Two of the governing bodies of golf have announced plans to alter some of the rules of the sport in an attempt to modernise the game. The R&A and USGA will implement rules changes hoping to simplify the game and make the sport more consistent in order to speed up play. Currently being tested and evaluated, the new rules will be finalised in 2018 and will then take effect from 1 January 2019.

But what are these rules changes and how will the way people play and train for golf. Here we look at some of the proposed alterations to the game.

Relaxing penalties

One of the major aspects of the rule changes is that they attempt to relax some of the stricter penalties found in the game. For example, in the past accidentally moving a ball at rest would result in a one-stroke penalty to that player – this new rules would see this penalty removed and the ball would simply be replaced. This simplifies the rules as in most cases there is no penalty for an accidentally moved ball.

Additionally, the rules surrounding both free and penalty drops will be relaxed. Rather than having to drop the ball from shoulder height, players will be able to drop from just an inch above the ground.

Speeding up play

A number of the new rules are aimed at speeding up the rate of play. While it is not a steadfast rule, there will be a new recommendation that players should not take longer than 40 seconds to take a shot. Currently there are no recommendations and players can spend minutes deliberating on a shot if they wish.

Additionally, the time allowed to search for a lost ball will be reduced from the current five minutes to three minutes. And it will also be made clear that committees will be allowed to set a maximum score for a hole. This means that once a player reaches the maximum score for the hole they can simply move onto the next one, rather than having to complete the hole.

Use of technologies

One of the most interesting and potentially controversial rules that the R&A and USGA are looking to implement is allowing the use of electronic measuring devices. Golfers are currently not allowed to use measurement devices in competitions, whether it’s something as simple as a smart watch or something as high tech as a SkyCaddie Touch GPS Rangefinder.

This is certainly an interesting addition to the rules as not only does it allow for this specific form of distance measurement device to be used but it could potentially open the door to allow a range of other technologies to be permitted in competitions. This is sure to cause controversy. Many golfers are happy to embrace the emergence of technology in the game while others feel that it will have a negative effect on the sport overall.

It will certainly be interesting to see how the golfing community reacts to the rule changes and it’s something to keep your eye on over the next year and a half.