Rules of Golf face biggest changes since 1897

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir October 25, 2011 09:53

A golfer will no longer be penalised if his or her ball is moved by a gust of wind after it has been addressed, according to radical changes to the Rules of Golf, effective from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2015, which have been published – for the first time jointly – by The R&A and the United States Golf Association (USGA).

The rule change comes about after Rory McIlroy was penalised when his ball was moved on the seventh green by the wind after he had addressed it during this year’s Open Championship.

Another major change is that players will be allowed to smooth sand in a bunker hazard at any time, before playing from that hazard, provided it is for the sole purpose of caring for the course. This has never been allowed before in the 114-year history of the Rules of Golf.

In total, nine of the 34 rules that govern the game have been amended, including the time of starting, which now states that the penalty for starting late, but within five minutes of the starting time, is reduced from disqualification to loss of the first hole in match play or two strokes at the first hole in stroke play.

The rule changes are some of the most significant ever recorded.

The R&A’s director of Rules and Equipment Standards, David Rickman, said: “We have undergone a pretty extensive review. The Rules of Golf are constantly evolving and our hope is that what we have produced for 2012 is clear, informed by common sense and reflective of the demands of the modern game.”

Padraig Harrington, three-time Major winner, added: “I am delighted with the changes, in particular the ball moving after address. Every time the wind blows I am worried that my ball is going to move and I am worried about grounding my putter, distracting me from trying to hole my putt.

“This change will speed up play, there won’t be as many suspensions and players won’t be getting penalised or disqualified unfairly. It is definitely giving us players a little bit of a break.”

The new Rules of Golf will be sent to every golf club in Great Britain and Ireland shortly.

Golf Club Management contributor Shona McRae is manager of Rules of Golf at The R&A. If you would like her to clarify a rule for you, please email with the subject of ‘Rules’

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir October 25, 2011 09:53
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