The R&A and USGA are ready to deliver the most radical reform to the rules of golf since the original 13 laws were set down in 1744. The governing bodies confirmed the news, first reported by Golfweek in January, on Thursday.
David Rickman briefed European Tour players on proposed changes in January this year during the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, and Golfweek broke the news a few days later. The governing bodies officially announced the proposed 2019 changes in February. They set up a six-month feedback process to get contributions from professional tours, amateur and national bodies, and ordinary golfers.
The feedback process is now over. The two bodies in charge of governing the game are in the process of reviewing the 22,000 contributions from 102 different countries on the proposed cutting of the rules from 34 down to 24. The aim is to finalize the new rules for the spring of 2018, and begin “a comprehensive education program later in 2018.”
“It is pleasing to see that so many people from different parts of the world have taken this opportunity to engage with the process of modernizing the Rules,” said David Rickman, executive director of governance at the R&A. “We have received insightful comments and suggestions from throughout the professional and amateur game and will take time to consider the feedback in detail. We will then work on finalizing the changes ahead of their implementation in 2019.”
USGA senior director of rules and amateur status Thomas Pagel said: “After listening to golfers and reviewing the extensive comments, one thing is very clear – we all share a passion for the game and are eager to be a part of this process. We appreciate everyone who took time to provide their thoughts and insights. They have been very helpful and encouraging.”
The R&A and USGA highlighted three key areas from the review process:
“Golfers are enthusiastic about the scope and direction of the overall changes, such as pace-of-play improvements, the elimination of penalties and streamlined procedures.
“Golfers provided the most feedback on the proposed Rules changes focused on the putting green (such as putting with the flagstick left in the hole, repairing spike marks and eliminating the penalty for accidentally moving a ball); the creation of “penalty areas” (extending water hazard type relief and eliminating penalties for moving loose impediments and grounding a club); and the new dropping procedures (including the size of “relief areas”).
“Golfers strongly welcomed the new Player’s Edition of the Rules and found it much easier to read and understand.”
The new rules will come into effect on Jan. 1, 1919.