Every so often, the USGA reviews the Rules of Golf and makes alterations where necessary. Here are 5 of the most recent changes that will come in to play in almost every round:
1. How to drop a ball
Current rule: When taking relief, the player is required to use this dropping procedure:
The player must drop the ball while standing erect and holding the ball at shoulder height and arm’s length
The ball must first strike the course in a specified place and must not strike any person or equipment before coming to rest
The ball is then to be played from where it comes to rest, except that if it ends up in any of 9 specific locations (such as nearer to the hole or more than 2 club-lengths from where it struck the course)
New rule: Players will continue to drop a ball when taking relief, but the dropping procedure will be changed in several ways:
How a ball may be dropped is simplified; the only requirement will be that the ball be let go from knee height so that it falls through the air and does not touch any part of the player’s body or equipment before it hits the ground
The ball will need only to be dropped in and come to rest in the relief area, and there will be no re-drop requirement if the dropped ball accidentally hits a person or object after hitting the ground but before coming to rest in the relief area
2. Time for a lost ball search
Current rule: If the ball is not found within 5 minutes after the player began searching for it, the ball is treated as lost and the player gets a one-stroke penalty and must play another ball from the spot of the previous stroke.
New rule: The time for a ball search before the ball becomes lost is reduced from 5 minutes to 3 minutes.
3. Repairing spike marks
Current rule: A player may repair only an old hole plug or a ball-mark on the green on his or her line of play.
New rule: The new rule allows for repair of almost any damage on the green, except aeration holes, natural surface imperfections, or natural wear of the hole. This includes ball-marks, shoe damage, indentations from a club or flagstick, animal damage, etc.
4. Leaving the flagstick in the hole
Current rule: If a player makes a stroke on the putting green and the ball then hits the unattended flagstick that was left in the hole, the player gets the general penalty.
New rule: There will no longer be a penalty if a ball played from the putting green hits a flagstick left in the hole. Players will not be required to putt with the flagstick in the hole; rather, they will continue to have the choice to have it removed.
5. Use of a distance-measuring device
Current rule: Distance-measuring devices are prohibited during a round, but a committee may adopt a local rule allowing their use.
New rule: The default position is reversed: players are allowed to use distance-measuring devices, but a committee can adopt a local rule prohibiting them.
Want a summary of all the changes? Find it here.