A golfer may now use any means to remove loose impediments from his/her line of putt, provided nothing is pressed down. In addition, there is no longer an automatic penalty in either match play or stroke play if a ball off the putting green moves after a loose impediment within a club length of the ball has been removed.
Changes are implemented every four years. The USGA is the governing body of golf in the United States and Mexico, while the R&A is the governing body for golf outside the USGAs jurisdiction.
Another change gives a local committee the latitude to disqualify a golfer in tournament play because of a serious breach of etiquette. In all, the changes for 2004 are the most extensive in 20 years.
Additionally, two equipment proposals have been adopted as part of the Rules for 2004. A size limit of 460cc, plus 10cc for measurement tolerance, will be placed on clubheads, along with two dimensional controls.
The first control limits the length between the heel and toe of the clubhead to 5.0 inches, while the second control places a 2.8-inch limit on the height between the sole and crown of the clubhead. There is also a limit of 48 inches on all club lengths, with the exception of putters.
A one-year grace period will be granted for clubs already in use prior to 2004, for both the new club length and clubhead size limits, until Dec. 31, 2004.
In addition, as part of the Rules of Amateur Status, the prize limit has increased to $750 from $500.