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Rules changes: Now more player friendly

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The U.S. Golf Association and the R&A announced Monday changes to the Rules of Golf and the Rules of Amateur status.

Under the new Rules of Golf, which will be in effect from 2012-15, a player is no longer penalized if their ball is moved, through no fault of their own, after address. A stated example was, if wind causes a player’s ball to move on the green following address, the player will play the ball from its new position without penalty.

The new rules would have benefited Webb Simpson at this year's Zurich Classic of New Orleans. On the 15th hole during the final round (pictured above), Simpson, bidding for his first PGA Tour win, addressed a par putt when the ball moved – unintentionally – a few inches. Simpson was assessed a one-stroke penalty and eventually lost a playoff to Bubba Watson.

'This change will speed up play, there won’t be as many suspensions and players won’t be getting penalized or disqualified unfairly. It is definitely giving us players a little bit of a break,' said three-time major champion Padraig Harrington.

Other changes to the Rules include:

*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.

“The Rules of Golf are constantly evolving and our hope is that what we have produced for 2012 is clear, informed by common sense and reflective of the demands of the modern game,” said David Rickman, R&A director of rules and equipment standards.

Regarding changes to the Rules of Amateur Status, an amateur golfer who is at least 18 years of age may now enter into a contract and/or agreement with a third party (such as an agent) soley in relation to the player’s future as a professional golfer. The player may not obtain financial gain as an amateur and cannot be required to play in certain amateur or professional events.

Other changes include:

*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.

*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.