Ch...ch...Changes, Rule of the Month, December 2015
Senior OGA Rules Officials: Pete Scholz and Terry McEvilly
As 2015 draws to a close, we would like to offer a heartfelt “Thank You” to all of our readers for your dedication to the Rules and the positive feedback in response to the monthly Rules feature. Additionally, we wish everyone a joyful holiday season.
We have altered this month’s format to cover the major changes to the Rules beginning January 1st, 2016. We are not able to cover all of the changes but the following are the most significant additions, deletions and amendments to the Rules. As you will see, the changes reflect the USGA’s dedication to simplify the Rules while still preserving the traditions of the game. The result of many of the changes is a more player friendly application of the Rules. Watch for these changes to appear in our quizzes soon.
- Implementation of Rule 14-1b. (Anchoring the Club). This Rule was announced a couple of years ago and shouldn’t take anyone by surprise at this point. Simply put, the club may not be anchored against the body to make a stroke. Additionally, the forearm may not be pressed against the body to create an anchoring point by which the other hand may swing the club around this point. This is not an equipment Rule and long putters may still be used provided they are not anchored as described above. Breach of this Rule results in a loss of hole penalty in match play or two strokes in stroke play.
- Penalty for a Breach of Rule 14-3 (Artificial Devices and Unusual Equipment; Abnormal Use of Equipment) Amended. Previously, any breach of this Rule, such as using a distance measuring device when the local rule permitting their use was not enacted, resulted in an immediate disqualification. This has been amended to the first breach resulting in a loss of hole penalty in match play or a two stroke penalty in stroke play. A subsequent breach during the same round results in disqualification.
- Restrictions on DMDs Relaxed. Provided the Local Rule allowing DMDs (Distance Measuring Devices) is in place, a player may now use a device that also gauges or measures other factors that might assist his play. It is only a breach of Rule 14-3 if the additional functions are used during the round. So go ahead and ask for that new fancy range finder or phone for Christmas. Just remember to use the app that measures distance only.
- Rule 18-2b (Ball Moves After Address) Removed. The automatic penalty for your ball moving after you address it has been removed. While there were exceptions to this Rule they were often misunderstood resulting in the player playing from the wrong place. Starting in 2016, when a ball at rest moves, every relevant circumstance must be evaluated and if it is more than likely that the player caused his ball to move he will incur a one stroke penalty and the ball must be replaced. If it is determined that the player most likely did not cause the movement of the ball he incurs no penalty and must play the ball from its new location unless another person or outside agency caused the movement. In which case the ball must be replaced without penalty to the player. Please note that water or wind are NOT outside agencies.
- Exception added for an Incorrect Hole Score on Card (Rule 6-6d). Previously, when a player turned in a score card with an incorrect score for a hole and the error was discovered prior to the close of the competition, the player was disqualified. Starting in 2016 if this error is because the player was not aware of a penalty incurred he will receive the applicable penalty and an additional two stroke penalty for a breach of Rule 6-6d instead of disqualification. If the error was for any other reason, such as forgetting to include a known penalty, the player is disqualified.
- New Permitted Local Rules. By three new Decisions (33-8/32, 33-8/32.7 and 33-8/36.5) the Committee may enact a Local Rule treating animal hoof damage as ground under repair or allow the repair of such damage on the putting green. Additionally, if excessive bird or animal dung interferes with the proper playing of the game, the Committee may also declare it ground under repair and, on the putting green, authorize players to use equipment such as a greens whip to remove the dung without the fear of penalty for incidentally pressing something down in the process. Also, narrow concrete drainage channels that are parallel or adjacent to cart paths may now be declared immovable obstructions and would be considered part of the cart path. The intent is not to allow a club or committee to declare all drainage channels, which by definition are water hazards, to be obstructions, but only those that are constructed with artificial materials and meet the condition specified above. Important note of caution; the Local Rules must be in place for a player to obtain relief without penalty from hoof prints, animal dung or concrete drainage channels. Again – special emphasis – if the Local Rules for the above situations are not in place, no relief without penalty.
For complete descriptions and videos that explain all of the changes, please visit the Rules section on the USGA website at 2016 USGA, R&A Rules of Golf We think you will find The Rules/Education section to be an outstanding resource.
We wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Terry and Pete.