Winter 2019

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caddie or equipment (Rule 11.1a). This was a Rule that had slowly reduced the penalty over the years and finally reason prevailed that it is incredibly rare that players would benefit from hitting themselves. Included with that philosophy is the elimination of the penalty for hitting the ball more than once in a stroke or "double hits" (Rule 10.1a). How Golfers Already Play the Game The Rules are supposed to apply to all levels of the game, including those who are not playing a competition and are just posting a score for their handicap (or just playing for fun). A number of the new Rules match the way a lot of golfers were already playing the game, whether by a misunderstanding of the Rules or through necessity of the situation. The Alternative to Stroke and Distance Local Rule is the most significant of these changes. I'm obviously someone who plays by the Rules in my own time, but I can tell you I rarely, if ever, returned to the tee for stroke and distance during a casual round. Leaving the flagstick in while putting is another change in this category. But the most significant for players is the new concept of "relief areas" and that the drop- ping procedure requires the ball to remain in the relief area (Rule 14.3c). Many golfers already thought the ball could not roll outside the one club-length or two club- lengths for relief, depending on the Rule. That wasn't the case, but now it is. So the bad news for a lot of golfers is that you've been doing it all wrong for quite some time – the good news is you'll be doing it right going forward! Consistency A common complaint I used to hear about the old Rules was that they were not consistent. The new Rules are designed to provide a lot more consistency over various situations and make it easier for golfers to get the ruling right. The most significant change is the treatment of accidental deflections throughout the new Rules. Accidental deflections under the old Rules could result in canceling the stroke, no penalty, one-stroke or two-stroke penalties depending on the situation. Under the new Rules all accidental deflections require the player to play the ball as it lies without penalty, with only a couple rare exceptions. So go ahead and take a chance with your caddie standing just a little too close – if you accidentally hit him, there's no penalty! The new concept of relief areas also provides consistency in the relief proce- dures throughout the Rules. The old Rules required drops within one club-length, two club-lengths, on a spot, as near as possible to a spot, immediately behind a spot or on a line. Now, regardless of which Rule you are applying, you will drop the ball in a relief area, which is always one club-length with the exception of the lateral relief area from penalty areas or for an unplayable ball which is two club-lengths. And speaking of club-lengths, a "club- length" will always be a set distance: the length of the longest club of your 14, other than your putter. And by the way, there is still a maximum length for your driver, for those of you who are thinking about carry- ing one of those trick shot 60-inch clubs. Common Sense The old Rules in many places lacked what many players considered common sense. The new Rules make a concerted effort to reach common-sense conclusions and fair outcomes. Many previously mentioned changes fall under this category as well. One of the most obvious common sense changes is the elimination of the penalty for accidentally moving your ball while searching for it (Rule 7.4). A principle in the Rules is that the player must take care around the ball and to not move it. This is difficult to do when you don't know where the ball is. The jury is still out on whether you can carry the leaf blower to help find your ball though. Of course, the new structure and lan- guage of the Rules means that in essence, all the Rules have changed. But the reality is that the majority of the old rulings are still the same, and the changes are generally in the player's favor. While this summary is by no means a comprehensive review of all the changes, hopefully it gives you a bet- ter idea of what the changes are and how they are designed to make your playing of the game easier and more enjoyable. NCGA.ORG | WINTER 2019 81 Leaving the flag pole in the hole when putting. It should quicken the pace of play. — B. Dauphinee Three minutes to find a lost ball, best 'speed-up-the-game' change. — G. Beech The new rule for making a double hit. It was a never-intended shot with a big penalty. — C. Hofmeister Local rule for out of bounds and lost ball vs. going back to the tee. — D. Fernandez Club grounding allowed in penalty area. — V. Hague The dropping of the ball. — G. Cervo Being able to tap down green imper- fections, like spike marks, etc. — F. Han FORUM Members Which of the new 2019 Rules of Golf are you most excited about?

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