(FAR HILLS, N.J.) Oct. 25, 2011 — The USGA and R&A have changed the rule that penalizes a player whose ball is moved by the wind or other natural factors after he grounds his putter.
In the newest edition of the “Rules of Golf,” effective for 2012 through 2015, the governing bodies of golf make nine rules changes and add a new appendix to the rules.
Here is the text of the changes:
Ball Moving After Address (Rule 18-2b). A new exception is added which exonerates the player from penalty if their ball moves after it has been addressed when it is known or virtually certain that they did not cause the ball to move. For example, if it is a gust of wind that moves the ball after it has been addressed, there is no penalty and the ball is played from its new position.
Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions (Rule 13-4). Exception 2 to this Rule is amended to permit a player to smooth sand or soil in a hazard at any time, including before playing from that hazard, provided it is for the sole purpose of caring for the course and Rule 13-2 (improving lie, area of intended stance or swing or line of play) is not breached.
Time of Starting (Rule 6-3a). The rule is amended to provide that the penalty for starting late, but within five minutes of the starting time, is reduced from disqualification to loss of the first hole in match play or two strokes at the first hole in stroke play. Previously this penalty reduction could be introduced as a condition of competition.
Definitions: Addressing the Ball. The Definition is amended so that a player has addressed the ball simply by grounding his club immediately in front of or behind the ball, regardless of whether
or not he has taken his stance. Therefore, the Rules generally no longer provide for a player addressing the ball in a hazard. (See also related change to Rule 18-2b)
Rule 1-2. Exerting Influence on Movement of Ball or Altering
Physical Conditions The Rule is amended to establish more clearly that, if a player intentionally takes an action to influence the movement of a ball or to alter physical conditions affecting the playing of a hole in a way that is not permitted by the Rules, Rule 1-2 applies only when the action is not already covered in another Rule. For example, a player improving the lie of his ball is in breach of Rule 13-2 and therefore that Rule would apply, whereas a player intentionally improving the lie of a fellow-competitor’s ball is not a situation covered by Rule 13-2 and, therefore, is governed by Rule 1-2.
Rule 12-1. Seeing Ball; Searching for Ball. Rule 12-1 is reformatted for clarity. In addition, it is amended to (i) permit a player to search for his ball anywhere on the course when it may be covered by sand and to clarify that there is no penalty if the ball is moved in these circumstances, and (ii) apply a penalty of one stroke under Rule
18-2a if a player moves his ball in a hazard when searching for it when it is believed to be covered by loose impediments.
Rule 13-4. Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions. Exception 2 to Rule 13-4 is amended to permit a player to smooth sand or soil in a hazard at any time, including before playing from that hazard, provided it is for the sole purpose of caring for the course and Rule 13-2 is not breached.
Rule 19-1. Ball in Motion Deflected or Stopped; By Outside Agency
The note is expanded to prescribe the various outcomes when a ball in
motion has been deliberately deflected or stopped by an outside agency.
Rule 20-7c. Playing from Wrong Place; Stroke Play. Note 3 is amended so that if a player is to be penalized for playing from a wrong place, in most cases the penalty will be limited to two strokes, even if another Rule has been breached prior to his making the stroke.
Appendix IV. A new Appendix is added to prescribe general regulations for the design of devices and other equipment, such as tees, gloves and distance-measuring devices.
For the 2012-2015 edition of the “Rules of Golf”and changes to the “Decisions on the Rules of Golf,” go to USGA.org.