Significant Changes Coming…
Every four years the United States Golf Association and the R&A make revisions to the Rules of Golf and the Decisions on The Rules of Golf. This revision cycle has resulted in some material changes, not only to some of the rules, but also on the application of penalties.We’ve selected a few of the more significant changes for this article.
Rule 4 – CLUBS
Current Rule: The penalty for carrying a non-conforming club is disqualification.
Change for 2008: Beginning in 2008, the penalty will change to be consistent with the penalty for carrying more than fourteen clubs.
If a player carries BUT DOES NOT USE a non-conforming club, in Match play, at the conclusion of the hole at which the breach is discovered, the state of the match is adjusted by deducting one hole for each hole at which a breach occurred; maximum deduction per round is two holes. In Stroke play, the penalty is two strokes for each hole at which any breach occurred; maximum penalty per round is four strokes.
A player is still disqualified if he uses a non-conforming club at any time during the round.
Rule 12-2 – IDENTIFYING BALL
Current Rule: Except in a hazard, if a player has reason to believe a ball is his, he may lift the ball without penalty to identify it.
Change for 2008: A player now has the ability to lift his ball anywhere on the golf course in order to identify it.
The new rule also requires that it must be necessary to lift the ball in order to identify it and that the original lie must not be altered. In other words, if the ball is buried in a bunker, it must be replaced in the same manner. A player is not going to be permitted to use this rule with the intent to improve his position. If a player lifts the ball when it’s not necessary, he will incur a one-stroke penalty. If the ball is not replaced in a similar
lie (Rule 20-3b), it will result in loss of hole in Match play and a two-stroke penalty in Stroke play.
Rule 15-3 – WRONG BALL
Current Rule: There is no penalty if a player makes a stroke at a wrong ball in a hazard. Any strokes made at a wrong ball in a hazard do not count in the player’s score.
Change for 2008: Since 12-2 now permits a player to lift and identify his ball anywhere on the golf course, the penalty for hitting a wrong ball has been expanded to include strokes made at a ball that lies in a hazard. The penalty for hitting a wrong ball now occurs anywhere on the golf course, including in a hazard. The only exception to this rule is if a player makes a stroke at a ball that is moving in a water hazard. The penalty is loss of hole in Match play and a two-stroke penalty in Stroke play.
Rule 19-2 – BALL IN MOTION DEFLECTED OR STOPPED BY PLAYER, PARTNER, CADDIE OR EQUIPMENT
Current Rule: The penalty for a ball that is accidentally deflected by a player, his equipment, caddie or partner is loss of hole in Match play or two strokes in Stroke play.
Change for 2008: The penalty has been reduced to a onestroke penalty and is now consistent with Rule 18 for a ball at rest moved. This change has a significant impact on Match play since it no longer results in an automatic loss of hole.
Rule 24-1 – MOVEABLE OBSTRUCTION
Current Rule: When a ball is in motion, an obstruction that might influence the movement of the ball, other than an attended flagstick or equipment of the players,must not be removed.
Change for 2008: When a ball is in motion, an obstruction that might influence the movement of the ball, other than equipment of any player or the flagstick when attended, removed or held up,must not be moved.
In other words, if your clubs are lying next to the flagstick and a ball in motion may strike them, you may now lift both the clubs and the flagstick without penalty.
Rule 27-1 – REASONABLE EVIDENCE
Current Rule: In order for a player to follow the procedure for a ball lost in an obstruction, abnormal ground condition or a water hazard, a player must have “reasonable evidence” that the ball is lost in the condition.
Change for 2008: The term reasonable evidence implies that there must be no doubt that the ball could be anywhere else but in the referenced condition. However, there was often confusion and a large amount of subjectivity in the understanding of this concept. The rules are now more definitive. It must now be “known or virtually certain” that a ball is lost in the obstruction, abnormal ground condition or water hazard before a player can proceed under those rules. If there is any doubt whatsoever, the ball must be treated as lost outside of those conditions (Rule 27-1).
As I said at the beginning of this article, this only covers a sampling of some of the changes. In addition to changes to the rules, there are 38 new decisions and about 180 revised decisions including about 60 decisions which the USGA defines as substantively revised. For a complete listing of the changes for 2008, go to our website azgolf.org, click on Tournaments and then Rules of Golf.