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Main Amendments to the Rules of Golf 2012-2015

By: Barry Rhodes | Mon 05 Dec 2011 | Comments ()

Guest Feature from Barry Rhodes author of the book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’

Revisions to the Rules of Golf, which thankfully are now unified across the world, are published by R&A Rules and the USGA every four years. The latest revisions are effective from 1st January, 2012. The good news is that there are few changes that will cause golfers any difficulty in understanding and remembering. The majority of the changes are amendments aimed at improving the clarity of the Rules. I am pleased to present my summary of those changes that are most likely to affect golfers, whatever their handicaps or playing status.

Definition of Addressing the Ball:

At present, a player has addressed their ball when they have taken their stance and have also grounded their club. Under the revised Definition a player will have addressed their ball as soon as they ground their club, whether in front of the ball, or behind it. There is no requirement to take a stance. Consequently, a player will no longer address their ball in a bunker or a water hazard, as the Rules do not permit the grounding of a club in a hazard.

Rule 6-3a. Time of Starting:

Under the existing Rules, a player who arrives even 15 seconds later than their starting time should be disqualified from a competition, unless the Committee has introduced a condition of competition that reduces the penalty for players arriving within five minutes of their official starting time from disqualification to two strokes in stroke play, or loss of the first hole in match play. The revised Rule dispenses with the need for such a condition of competition, as the penalty of disqualification has been reduced accordingly in these circumstances.

Rule 12-1b; Searching for or Identifying Ball Covered by Loose Impediments in Hazard

Until this amendment there was no penalty for causing a ball to move while searching for it in a hazard if it was covered by loose impediments (e.g. leaves). However, there was a penalty for the same act through the green (e.g. in the rough). With this change the anomaly has been corrected and a ball covered by loose impediments that is moved during search will incur a penalty of one stroke, whether it is in a hazard or through the green. Of course, the ball that was moved must be replaced, as before.

Rule 13-4. Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions:

This will be a welcome change for golfers and course maintenance staff alike. Players will be permitted to smooth sand or soil in a hazard at any time, including before playing from that hazard, providing it is done for the sole purpose of caring for the course and nothing is done to improve the position or lie of their ball, the area of their intended stance or swing, or their line of play. How often have we wanted to smooth irregularities made by previous groups as we retrieve a rake at one end of a bunker, when our ball lies waiting to be played at the other end? Well, from 1st January, we will be able to do just that.

Rule 18-2b. Ball Moving After Address:

Most of us will have been sympathetic when my near-neighbour, Padraig Harrington, penalised himself one stroke during The Masters in Augusta, in 2008, because his ball had moved after he had addressed it, even though the movement was obviously caused by the gusty wind blowing around the course. There have been several other similar, high-profile incidents since then. Well, now there is going to be an Exception to Rule 18-2b that exonerates the player from any penalty if their ball moves after it has been addressed (remember the new definition of address) when it is known or virtually certain that they did not cause the ball to move.

Rules of Amateur Status; Hole-in-One Prizes:

The only material difference that I am aware of between the R&A Rules and the USGA Rules is going to be removed. From the 1st January there will be no general prize limit to the prize for achieving holes-in-one while playing a round of golf. Previously there was no limit in USA or Mexico, but a limit of £500 (or the equivalent currency) applied in the rest of the world.

Please note that the above are my interpretations of the most important revisions to the Rules of Golf, which are effective from 1st January 2012. For the detail of all the amendments please refer to the 32nd edition of Rules of Golf, as approved by R&A Rules Limited and USGA.

Good Golfing,

P.S. I strongly recommend that anyone with an interest in the Rules of Golf should purchase a copy of ‘Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2012 -2015, produced jointly by R&A Rules and the USGA. It is much easier and far more interesting to read than the difficult Rules of Golf book and will provide you with plentiful material for those après-golf exchanges in the Clubhouse or the bar. Click here to purchase a copy through my blog site from Amazon.

Related Content:

Article from Barry Rhodes author of the book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf 2016’

Barry is author of the book, ‘999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf 2016’ and writes a regular blog of miscellaneous content on the rules of Golf at www.barryrhodes.com



Barry Rhodes

Barry is author of the book, '999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2012 - 2015' and writes a regular blog of miscellaneous content on the rules of Golf at www.barryrhodes.com

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