USGA, R&A revise golf rules

New rules that will apply to all golfers was announced on Monday, Oct. 24, 2011. (REUTERS/Adam...

New rules that will apply to all golfers was announced on Monday, Oct. 24, 2011. (REUTERS/Adam Hunger)

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, Last Updated: 9:53 AM ET

FAR HILLS, N.J. -- The United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Association (R&A) announced on Monday new rules that apply to all golfers, as well as new rules in relation to amateur status.

The changes come after a four-year review of golf's 34 playing rules and rules of amateur status.

Nine principal rules were updated to improve clarity and ensure penalties are proportionate. Of the changes, here are the biggest ones:

- Ball Moving After Address (Rule 18-2b). A new exception is added which exonerates the player from penalty if their ball moves after it has been addressed when it is known or virtually certain that they did not cause the ball to move. For example, if it is a gust of wind that moves the ball after it has been addressed, there is no penalty and the ball is played from its new position.

- Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions (Rule 13-4). Exception 2 to this Rule is amended to permit a player to smooth sand or soil in a hazard at any time, including before playing from that hazard, provided it is for the sole purpose of caring for the course and Rule 13-2 (improving lie, area of intended stance or swing or line of play) is not breached.

- Time of Starting (Rule 6-3a). The rule is amended to provide 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. Previously this penalty reduction could be introduced as a condition of competition.

Three-time major champion Padraig Harrington commented, "I am delighted with the changes, in particular the ball moving after address. This change will speed up play, there won't be as many suspensions and players won't be getting penalized or disqualified unfairly."

There were several changes in relation to players' amateur status as well. The most important of the new rules are:

- Professionalism; Contracts and Agreements (New Rule 2-2(a)). An amateur golfer may now enter into a contract and/or agreement with his national golf union or association, provided the golfer does not obtain any financial gain, directly or indirectly, while still an amateur golfer.

- Professional Agents, Sponsors and Other Third Parties (New Rule 2-2(b)). An amateur golfer who is at least 18 years of age may enter into a contract and/or agreement with a third party solely in relation to the golfer's future as a professional golfer, provided the golfer does not obtain any financial gain, directly or indirectly, and is not required to play in certain amateur or professional events, while still an amateur golfer.

- Subsistence Expenses (Rule 4-3). An amateur golfer may receive reasonable subsistence expenses, not exceeding actual costs, to assist with general living costs, provided the expenses are approved by and paid through the golfer's national golf union or association.

"We have produced a unified code of the Rules of Golf for 60 years and although the context has been the same, we often found the perception that there were different rules in place depending upon where you were to play the game," said USGA Senior Director of Rules of Golf Thomas Pagel. "Now the book will not only have the same content, but it will also be presented in a uniform fashion."

Both the USGA and R&A websites have the full text of changes, as well as video features on the updated rules.


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