The R&A and USGA released the 2016 edition to the Rules of Golf on Monday with four significant changes.
While most of the attention during the current four-year update cycle has been focused on the impending ban on anchoring during a stroke (Rule 14-1b), which was announced in May 2013, the overall theme of the most recent edition is simplicity.
“We continually look at ways we can improve and clarify the Rules of Golf,” said David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of rules and equipment standards. “The R&A and the USGA collaborate closely and we consult with our respective national and international advisory members to produce a code of rules that is relevant to all golfers around the world.”
The most significant change may have been to Rule 18-2b. A player is no longer deemed to have caused a golf ball to move after address, and rules officials will take a more nuanced look at possible violations to consider other factors, such as the amount of time taken after a golf club is grounded and the ball moves.
The rule was adjusted in 2012 to consider the possibility of wind moving a golf ball, and a one-stroke penalty will be applied only when the facts show that the player caused the ball to move.
The USGA and R&A also added a “limited” exception to Rule 6-6d and the penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard.
A player will no longer be disqualified for returning a lower score for a hole than actually taken as a result of failing to include penalty strokes that the player was not aware of when he signed his scorecard.
The best example of this is Camilo Villegas who was disqualified from the 2011 Hyundai Tournament of Champions after violating Rule 23-1 (moving a loose impediment that might influence the movement of his golf ball). The violation wasn’t discovered until after Villegas signed his scorecard.
Under the new edition, Villegas would have been assessed a two-stroke penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard but would have been allowed to continue playing in the event.
Similarly, D.A. Points was disqualified from the 2014 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for using a training aid, a spongy green ball he uses to keep his arms “connected,” during the second round.
Under an edition to Rule 14-3, the violation for a first use of an “artificial device or equipment” will now be a two-stroke penalty. The penalty for a second breach of the rule will continue to be disqualification.
Among the litany of changes, however, next year’s ban on anchoring will continue to dominate the conversation in rule circles in the immediate future. Although most PGA Tour players have already made the transition to a non-anchored putter, like Adam Scott who arrived at this month’s Presidents Cup with a standard-length model, there are still a few holdouts – like Tim Clark – who will have to make the change after Jan. 1.
R&A and USGA officials said they anticipate some players will keep using longer putters without anchoring, and that the new rule is “intent based” and there would be no violation if the club inadvertently brushes against a player’s body.