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USGA, R&A publish new rules before Jan. 1 rollout

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Golf’s new rulebook has been published and will take effect on Jan. 1.

The changes – more than 30 in all – were originally announced in March 2017, and the USGA and R&A received more than 30,000 pieces of feedback. It's being billed as the most significant rules modernization in generations, designed to make the rules more consistent, fair and easier to understand and apply.

Some of the key changes include new procedures for dropping the ball when taking relief, the elimination or reduction of several penalties, relaxed putting green and bunker rules, and rules that encourage improved pace of play.

“From the project’s inception, our one goal was to make the rules easier to understand and apply for all golfers,” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior managing director of governance. “It sets a new standard in the way we write and interpret the rules and is central to our efforts to ensure a healthy future for golf. We look forward to continuing that process in the years to come.”

A “Player’s Edition” of the Rules of Golf includes more user-friendly diagrams and illustrations as well as more direct language to explain the game’s complexities. Players will now be able to access the rulebook online and through an app.

The Player’s Edition can be ordered as usgapublications.com, while digital versions can be found at usga.org/rules.

Among the notable changes that will most affect week-to-week competition on the pro circuit:

• Players will now be able to repair any damage on the greens, including spike marks;

• Penalty drops can now be made from knee rather than shoulder height;

• Caddies are not allowed to line up players before they hit shots;

• The flag no longer needs to be removed from the hole for putts on the green;

• There is no longer a penalty for an accidental double hit.

A full list of the changes that will take effect on Jan. 1 can be found here.

Also on Wednesday, the R&A also unveiled its “playbook” to outline its vision, purpose and values for the future. The organization will make a £200 million investment in the game over the next decade.

According to the R&A, the mission of the playbook is to make golf more accessible, more appealing and more inclusive; act in the best interests of the sport; and promote integrity and diversity in growing the sport.

“Our new brand brings together everything we have done over the last three years on ways to modernize golf and take the sport forward,” said Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the R&A. “We listened to our partners and the organizations and individuals we serve to help us determine what we should seek to achieve as custodians of golf. The message came through very clearly that we have a global role to play in leading the sport, while working collaboratively with our partners and international affiliated organizations to grow and nurture golf to ensure that it continues to thrive in 50 years’ time.”