New rules relax penalty standards, drop height

From ESPN - March 12, 2018

Golf now has a modern set of rules for the Royal & Ancient game, an extensive overhaul that took six years and is aimed at making the rules easier to understand.

The R&A and USGA announced the final version of modernized rules Monday. They take effect Jan. 1.

"This was out of recognition that, in trying to make the rules more fair, they became too complicated," said Thomas Pagel, the USGA's senior director of rules and amateur status. "With 30-plus years of tinkering, they got complicated, and that was not good for the game."

Among the changes will be how to take penalty drops -- from knee-high starting next year, instead of from shoulder height. There no longer will be penalties if a golf ball accidentally moves on the green, if a club touches the ground in a hazard or if the ball hits a flagstick that is not being tended on the green.

Also, caddies can no longer line up their players while they are setting up over a shot.

This is the most comprehensive change to the rules since the first set was published in 1744, only in this case, the book got smaller. There now are 24 rules instead of 34, and "The Official Guide to the Rules of Golf" replaces about 1,300 examples in the Decisions book.

"With revised rules being easier to understand, we think committees will be able to reach the right conclusion without having 1,300 fact sets," Pagel said.

The modernization project began with a meeting at St. Andrews in April 2012 among the R&A, USGA, PGA Tour and European Tour. They introduced a proposed draft a year ago and during six months of public feedback received some 30,000 comments from 102 countries through surveys, social media and phone calls.

The original proposal was for players to drop the ball 2 inches from the ground. Pagel said there were concerns that it was too close to the ground. The idea was to get the ball back in play, and knee-high was determined to keep the ball from bouncing away from the right area and keep some randomness to how it lies.


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