Rules Changes for 2012

The R&A and the USGA completed their quadrennial review of the rules, and yesterday announced rules changes for 2012 through 2015. There is nothing major, it’s still golf, but the biggest news is that two of the more maddening penalties have been eliminated.

Currently, a player has addressed the ball by taking a stance and grounding the club behind the ball. If the ball moves after this has been done, even though the player was not making a stroke, the movement is assumed to have been caused by the player. The ball must replaced and a one-stroke penalty is assessed.

The new rule eliminates this penalty if “it is known or virtually certain that he did not cause the ball to move.” What we have seen several times this year in professional tournaments is the ball moving on a windy day after a player addressed the ball on the putting green. Several years ago there was a controversy concerning whether Scott Verplank’s ball had even moved after he addressed it in the rough. Penalties were assessed in all cases.

Starting in 2012, if outside forces cause the ball to move after you have addressed it, there is no penalty, and the ball is played from its new position.

The second penalty change concerns raking bunkers. Under current rules, raking a bunker before a shot has been made is considered to be testing the sand and incurs a two-stroke penalty. In the future, if pre-shot raking is for the purpose of maintaining the course and has no affect on the shot, there is no penalty.

Say your ball is in a bunker and the rake is in the bunker, too, but at some distance from your ball. You have to go into the bunker to get the rake, exit, then go in again to hit your ball. The problem is that you have two sets of footprints to rake.

Under current rules, you would have to hit the ball before you rake either set of footprints. Under the new rule, you could rake the first set with no penalty. This will speed up play somewhat. Of concern, though, is the player who always seems to be raking the bunker somewhere before he hits his shot.

In addition, there are seven other minor rules changes, and then there are the Decisions. These are the enormous number of rulings on situations that happen once per career, but require clarification anyway. The Decisions book is over 400 pages long.

There are 17 new decisions, three renumbered decisions, 22 major revised decisions, 53 minor revised decisions, and 35 withdrawn decisions. I’ll leave you to your own research one those.

To read more go the R&A rules page.

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