Column: Golf about to modernize rule book

A series of changes taking effect in the new year aim to make the game friendlier for all ages.

The traditional, yet also highly controversial rules of golf are about to change.

Starting in the new year, the U.S. Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient will be implementing several changes in attempt to modernize, simplify and improve the overall golf experience for golfers of all skill levels.

This modernization process started in 2012 with the release of proposed changes to the worldwide golfing community, asking for feedback across the globe.

With some modifications to the initial proposed changes, the final version was released earlier this year, with the implementation due to officially take place as of Jan. 1, 2019.

The most common changes will effect dropping procedures, relax rules on the putting green and relax hazard rules, to name a few.

The hope is that these changes will make the rules easier to understand, and ‘friendlier’ by reducing severity to rules breaches.

The modernized rules will therefore state that an official drop will occur from knee-height, rather than from shoulder height.

This change will make it easier for the golfer to predict the final resting place of the ball, and therefore should also help improve overall pace of play.

Furthermore, in another attempt to reduce pace of play, the official time allotted to look for a lost ball will be reduced from five minutes to three minutes.

The putting green has also been an area of contention for many years, including golf balls accidentally moving.

There will no longer be a penalty for accidentally moving a ball on the putting green. The new rules will also allow the golfer to repair spike marks on the green, and touch the line of putt. In addition, golfers may elect to keep the flagstick in the hole while putting, as there will be no penalty for the ball striking the flagstick in the hole when putting on the green.

There will also no longer be a penalty stroke for a ball that has been ‘double hit,’ such as when chipping.

Hazards, such as water hazards and bunkers, will also incur relaxed rules. Golfers will now have the option to move loose impediments in hazards and bunkers, and will also be allowed to generally touch the ground with the club or hand in these areas.

An extra option will also be allowed for an unplayable ball in a sand trap, allowing the golfer to drop outside the bunker with a two stroke penalty. A drop outside of the bunker has not been allowed in the past with traditional rulings.

These are just a few of the rules changes that will be taking place in the new year.

Although these changes are considered controversial by the most traditional golfers in our community, the intent of these rules changes are to improve the overall golf experience for all who enjoy the game. The golf industry in general is excited to make the game of golf friendlier for golfers of all abilities.

Jennifer teaches golf to adults and juniors at the Chilliwack Golf Academy.

She played professionally on tour for over 10 years, won the 2016 LPGA Western Section Teacher of the Year award, and is the Head Women’s and Girls Provincial Coach for BC Golf.

She can be contacted at 604-798-9805, chilliwackgolfacademy.com, or at Jennifer@chilliwackgolf.com

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