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A major overhaul in the Rules of Golf has been proposed and will come into effect from January 1, 2019.

In total, there are 30 proposed changes designed to make the game easier to understand and fairer.

The changes cover a whole host of different issues, ranging from
grounding a club in a penalty area, to determining if a ball moved, to
repairing damage on greens, to relaxing dropping procedures.

David Rickman, executive director of governance at The R&A, said:
“Our aim is to make the Rules easier to understand and to apply for all

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“We have looked at every Rule to try to find ways to make them more
intuitive and straightforward and we believe we have identified many
significant improvements.”

Highlights of the proposed Rule changes include:

Elimination or reduction of “ball moved” penalties: There
will be no penalty for accidentally moving a ball on the putting green
or in searching for a ball; and a player is not responsible for causing a
ball to move unless it is “virtually certain” that he or she did so.

Relaxed putting green rules: There will be no penalty if a
ball played from the putting green hits an unattended flagstick in the
hole; players may putt without having the flagstick attended or removed.
Players may repair spike marks and other damage made by shoes, animal
damage and other damage on the putting green and there is no penalty for
merely touching the line of putt.

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Relaxed rules for “penalty areas” (currently called “water hazards”): Red
and yellow-marked penalty areas may cover areas of desert, jungle, lava
rock, etc., in addition to areas of water; expanded use of red penalty
areas where lateral relief is allowed; and there will be no penalty for
moving loose impediments or touching the ground or water in a penalty

Relaxed bunker rules: There will be no penalty for moving
loose impediments in a bunker or for generally touching the sand with a
hand or club. A limited set of restrictions (such as not grounding the
club right next to the ball) is kept to preserve the challenge of
playing from the sand; however, an extra relief option is added for an
unplayable ball in a bunker, allowing the ball to be played from outside
the bunker with a two-stroke penalty.

Relying on player integrity: A player’s “reasonable
judgment” when estimating or measuring a spot, point, line, area or
distance will be upheld, even if video evidence later shows it to be
wrong; and elimination of announcement procedures when lifting a ball to
identify it or to see if it is damaged.

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Pace-of-play support: Reduced time for searching for a lost
ball (from five minutes to three); affirmative encouragement of “ready
golf” in stroke play; recommending that players take no more than 40
seconds to play a stroke and other changes intended to help with pace of

Simplified way of taking relief: A new procedure for taking
relief by dropping a ball in and playing it from a specific relief area;
relaxed procedures for dropping a ball, allowing the ball to be dropped
from just above the ground or any growing thing or other object on the

The proposed 24 new Rules, reduced from the current 34, have been
written in a user-friendly style with shorter sentences, commonly used
phrases, bulleted lists and explanatory headings.

Golfers are encouraged to review the proposed changes and submit
feedback online via worldwide survey technology that can be accessed at or

from now until August 31, 2017.

The R&A in major Rules of Golf overhaul

What do you make of the changes to the Rules of Golf as proposed by
The R&A? Leave your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below. For
more information about the changes, visit

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