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No plan to change rule for ball in fairway divot

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The 30 proposed changes to the Rules of Golf were revealed Wednesday, but one that didn’t make the cut was allowing relief for a ball that lands in a divot hole in the fairway.

“We have no immediate plans to change this particular rule,” said David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance.

Why not?

The governing bodies point to one of the tenets of the game – to play the ball as it lies. There can be bad outcomes from good shots, and good outcomes from bad shots.

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“To provide relief in that situation would really challenge that principle,” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules.

Said Rickman: “It’s part of golf.”

Another issue is defining a divot: Is every small indentation in the fairway a divot? What if it’s filled with sand? (Jack Nicklaus was among those who said sand-filled divots should be treated as ground under repair). Or partially replaced? With players questioning every spot in the fairway they think is unfavorable, it could become a pace-of-play nightmare.  

Pagel agreed that the rule is “one we hear about a lot,” but for now there are no plans to allow free relief.