Out with the old, in with the new … here’s why the new rules of golf from the USGA and R&A are a resolution that we will happily get on board with.
By Charlotte Ibbetson
I’m not a huge fan of the old ‘New Year, new me’ promise. I’m quite happy how I am (flaws and all), and if I get to the end of 2019 feeling the same way then all in all, it will have been a good year - without the need to feel pressured into miserably undertaking ‘Dry January’ or killing myself in the gym.
But one resolution that I’m totally on board with is the approach to the new rules of golf.
Having taken effect from 1 January this year, there are twenty significant changes to the rules that all generally have the same agenda: to make the game quicker, simpler and in turn, more attractive.
You can read more about the changes to the rules in our article ‘The New Rules of Golf: What’s Changed?’ but to sum up some of the updates; you now only have three minutes to look for your ball, you can putt with the flag in, there’s no penalty if you accidentally move your ball whilst you’re looking for it and you can drop the ball from knee height. Some of the rules also make the game simpler and more attractive to beginners. For instance, you can now take relief from an embedded ball in the rough, a double hit only counts as one shot, you can repair all damage on the green and a ‘club length’ is defined as the length of the longest club in your bag, except for your putter (you previously had to use the club that you intended to hit).
These changes represent the most significant (and in my opinion positive) shake-up to the rules of golf by the USGA and R&A in over 60 years. They’re easier to understand, quicker to apply and there are far fewer of them as the total number of rules has been cut to 24 from 34, but that's not to say that modernising the rules doesn't come with potential downsides as well.
As golfers, we're just never happy, and there have been plenty of rumblings about the new rules across the industry. What happens when some players in your group want to putt with the flag in and others prefer to putt with it out - will that have the opposite effect and actually slow down play? And have the rules inadvertently been relaxed to the extent that they're open to dishonesty? Imagine if your match play opponent 'accidentally' kicks their ball out of the rough, only to place it back on a better lie. That might just be taking a cynical view of things, but it's certainly not a conversation that I'd look forward to halfway down the fairway.
They might still need some ironing out, but all in all, the new rules are a progressive, forward-thinking approach to the game, and hopefully a sign of the times to come for golf. Let’s just hope it’s a resolution that we can all stick to …