The Rules of Golf are about to undergo a big makeover

Among the images from Saturday at U.S. Open: this silhouette of Lee Westwood, who is one of the contenders entering what figures to be a memorable final round at Oakmont.

The Rules of Golf are about to undergo a big makeover

Golf

The Rules of Golf are about to undergo a big makeover

Get ready for arguably the biggest shake up to the Rules of Golf in generations.

The R&A and USGA are set to introduce a plethora of revised rules that will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. It will be an attempt to simplify the code by which the game is played.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of rules, addressed the European Tour’s players during a meeting at last week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, where he highlighted new innovations being considered for the 2020 edition of the Rules of Golf.

Golfweek understands that among the revised rules under consideration are: reducing the search time for lost balls from five minutes to three; allowing players to repair spike marks on greens; allowing players to drop a ball from any height when taking relief rather than the current stipulation of shoulder height; more of an emphasis on using red stakes for water hazards while still allowing yellow stakes in some cases; and eliminating the use of club lengths for taking relief.

Golfweek contacted the R&A, but a spokesman said: “the R&A does not wish to comment at this time since the rules process is still under review.”

The three-minute search rule will be seen as a means to try to speed up the game, while tour professionals will cheer any new rule allowing spike marks to be repaired. Professionals have complained for years at the unfairness of earlier groups playing on perfect greens while the leaders have to putt through marks left by the rest of the field. The European Tour even defied the R&A on this issue during the 1976 season, allowing its members to fix spike marks.

Previous R&A chief executive Peter Dawson revealed during his tenure that the R&A and USGA were working on a process to bring more clarity to the rules.

In 2013, he said: “This whole issue of complexity of the rules is important. We are actually doing a study at the moment with the USGA and the professional game to see if we feel the rules can be materially simplified. The group working on that is just about to come to a conclusion about whether we can go forward with that, and there is a lot of excitement about it.”

It’s taken over three years for the governing bodies to complete this process. The R&A and USGA are expected to reveal the full extent of the changes shortly.

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