Summer 2018

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T hey're finally here! The new Rules of Golf that will go into effect January 1, 2019 have been released. Yours truly here is breathing a sigh of relief, because it is quite clear that my job in explaining and teaching the Rules of Golf is quite safe. For those of you hoping for a simpler and less complex code for the game, you are likely to be sorely disappointed, BUT… the new Rules are friendlier, modernized for the state of the game and easier to follow by default (meaning you are less likely to inadvertently get yourself in trouble). Many of the key changes are fully pub- licized and have been well reviewed, including the new requirement to drop from knee height, the permission to leave a flagstick in the hole unattended when playing from the putting green, permission to move loose impediments and ground your clubs in penalty areas, permission to repair spike marks and other damage to the putting green and a Local Rule that provides an alternative to stroke-and-dis- tance for a ball lost or out of bounds. But there are also a number of changes that affect the every-day golfer that are a little more subtle, yet every bit as important. Club-Lengths All those who wrote in wanting to get their club-length measurements back won the battle, rather than the proposed 20 and 80 inch relief areas. While that is notewor- thy in and of itself, what is even more in- teresting is the new definition of "club- length" that appears in the 2019 Rules that paved the way for the ruling bodies to agree on this matter. For the new Rules, a "club- length" is defined as the length of the longest club of your 14 or fewer clubs selected for play, except for your putter. That means you never have to ask a Rules official ever again what club you can meas- ure with, because the answer is: any club you want, the distance of a "club-length" is now standardized. So if you measure with your wedge because that's what is in your hand, that's fine. But you're still entitled to the full dis- tance of your driver length (presuming that's the longest club other than a putter in most players' bags). Lie of the Ball Another new Definition that answers some age old questions is the definition of Lie. The lie of the ball has always been part of the Rules, but has always come with the question: "What is part of the lie?" Now we have that answer. Specifically, the lie includes the spot where the ball is at rest, any growing or attached natural object, any immovable obstruction, integral object or boundary object touching the ball or right next to it. It does not include loose impediments or movable obstructions. DQ Penalties Reduced In stroke play, the responsibility to protect the field guided Rules-makers to implement fairly severe penalties for mak- ing agreements that could give one or more players an advantage: agreeing to play out of order for an advantage or agree- ing to leave an assisting ball in place would lead to disqualification under the current Rules. In 2019, that penalty has been reduced to a single two-stroke penalty for such agreements – a penalty severe enough to dissuade players from the action, but light enough that they are still playing in the competition (new Rules 6.4b and 15.3a). Also, some previous one-and-done DQ penalties have been turned into "step- down" penalties. Under the current Rules, using a non-conforming tee or teeing the ball in a manner not permitted is an instant disqualification. Likewise, practicing on the competition course before or between stroke-play rounds will send you straight to the car trunk. Under the 2019 Rules, both of these breaches give you a one-time reprieve to incur just the general penalty the first time and only increases to disqualification if you breach the Rule a second time. Also notable is that practice on the competition course on the same day after your stroke-play round will be permitted (see new Rules 5.2b and 6.2b). Moving Loose Impediments in Bunkers This Rules guy was hoping to see the same relaxed Rules for bunkers and penalty areas, but it wasn't quite meant to be. However, while the relaxed Rules for penalty areas are getting some notoriety, 72 SUMMER 2018 | NCGA.ORG R U L E S O F G O L F Breaking Down the New Rules BY RYAN FARB

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