I think we’re all looking forward to the proposed rule changes scheduled for Jan. 1, 2019. Many are way overdue and address the issue of slow play while others are hopefully easier to understand. These 24 items will give you what they’re proposing, but for the next six months, you can write, email, or call to give your opinion about these and what you’d like to see happen. Once that’s done by Aug. 31, golf’s governing bodies will review the feedback and finalize the new rules. Contact them at usga.org/rules or call (908) 326-1850. Below are what I felt needed to be listed.
The putting green
If you accidentally move your ball or ball marker on the putting green, there is no penalty. Just put it back. Currently, it’s a one-stroke penalty.
You can repair almost any damage on the putting green, including spike marks and animal damage. You cannot repair natural imperfections. Currently, you can only repair ball marks or old hole plugs.
So long as you don’t improve the conditions for your stroke, you can touch the line of the putt to indicate a target. Currently, touching the line comes with a penalty of a loss of hole or two shots.
You can leave the unattended flag stick in when putting, and there is no penalty if your ball strikes it. Currently, it’s a loss of hole or a two-stroke penalty.
The term “water hazard” is being changed to “penalty areas” and will consist of red and yellow marked areas. This could include additional areas that don’t contain water such as desert, jungle, lava rock, etc. If your ball lands in one of these areas, it’s a one-stroke penalty if you take relief. Currently, relief is allowed only from a water hazard marked red or yellow.
You can move loose impediments in penalty areas, touch the ground with your hand or club, or ground your club without penalty. Currently: If you did any of the above it’s a loss of hole or a two-stroke penalty.
You can’t drop on the opposite side from where the ball last entered a penalty area marked red. Currently, you can take relief on the opposite side of a lateral water hazard.
You can touch and move loose impediments in a bunker when your ball is in that bunker. Currently, the penalty for doing so is a loss of hole or a two-stroke penalty.
You can touch the sand with your hand or club so long as you’re not testing the conditions of the bunker, improving your shot, or making a practice swing. Currently, with some exceptions such as accidentally falling when entering the bunker, touching the sand with hand or club results in a loss of hole or a two-stroke penalty.
Ball at rest
You are only considered to have caused your ball to move if it is at least 95 percent likely that you were the cause. Currently, you are considered to have caused your ball to move if it is 50 percent likely.
No matter where you are on the course, there is no penalty if you accidentally move your ball while searching for it. Just replace it. Currently, it’s a one-stroke penalty.
Ball in motion
If your ball strikes you, your caddie, an opponent, equipment, etc., there is no penalty. Currently, accidentally hitting yourself, your caddie, or the person holding the flagstick results in a one- or two-stroke penalty, depending on the circumstances.
The only requirements when taking a drop are to hold the ball above the ground. It must fall through the air. Height is not a requirement. Currently, you must stand and hold the ball at shoulder height with arm extended before dropping. My proposed change gives you 20 inches on either side of a line and 20–80 inches around a spot, depending on the type of drop.
Your ball is lost if not found within three minutes of searching. Currently, your ball is lost if not found within five minutes.
You can substitute a ball when taking relief. Currently, with a few exceptions, you have to continue playing the original ball, though you can substitute a ball when taking a penalty relief.
You can take free relief for an embedded ball anywhere in the general area of the course except sand. Currently, free relief is given only for balls embedded in closely mowed areas unless a local rule is enacted.
You can use distance-measuring devices such as laser rangefinders and GPS watches during a round unless a local rule is adopted prohibiting their use. Currently, a local rule has to be adopted allowing their use.
You can use a club damaged during your round. Currently, you can only use a damaged club during your round if the impairment happened during the normal course of play and was not caused by anger.
You can lift your ball to determine if it’s your ball and if it’s damaged or embedded. You don’t have to announce your intention to another player or give them the opportunity to observe it. Currently, before lifting you must announce your intention to another player and have them observe it.
Your caddie can’t stand on a line behind you from the time you take your stance until the stroke is made. Currently, a caddie can’t stand on a line behind you while you’re making a stroke but could line you up while you’re addressing the ball.
Your caddie can lift and replace your ball on the putting green without your permission. Currently, it’s a one-stroke penalty if your caddie lifts your ball without permission.
Pace of play
A new form of stroke play is recognized where your maximum score for a hole is capped (double or triple bogey). That max score is set by the committee. Currently, you must hole out unless playing a Stableford, par, or bogey format.
You have to declare that you’re playing a provisional ball before making a stroke with it. But you can begin a search and still have the option of playing a provisional so long as you do so within three minutes. Currently, the moment you go forward to search for your original ball, you can no longer play a provisional.
You can listen to music or watch sporting events during your round if it doesn’t bother your opponents or give you instructional information. Currently, with some exceptions, you cannot listen to music or watch sporting events during a round.
There you have it! Some are very good ideas while others really don’t affect most of us amateurs. See ya on the links.