November 26, 1999
Golf committees for Cape Region golf clubs have something new to read by the fireplace this winter.
The Rules of Golf are changing.
The United States Golf Association (USGA) and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Scotland (R & A) come together every four years to amend The Rules of Golf. The two organizations must agree on each proposed change. The alterations are then published in new editions.
Every two years the USGA and the R & A also finalize agreements on alterations to The Rules’ Appendix I, sometimes called The Local Rules. These additional provisions enable golf committees to establish rules to deal with unusual course conditions. The local rules must be consistent with Appendix I’s provisions. In any event, local committees cannot adopt a local rule that in effect waives a penalty imposed by the basic Rules.
The new amendments take effect January 1, 2000. This year’s edition includes revisions to the basic Rules and the optional Local Rules.
Here are a few notable modifications.
Reed Mackenzie, chairman of the USGA Rules of Golf Committee, noted in a recent press release:
The Rules committee decided to prohibit the growing practice of players having their caddies stand behind them while they are making a stroke. The Rules previously prohibited this practice on the putting green. Now this practice will be prohibited anywhere on the course.
Frankly, this is a practice I’ve seen more often on televised LPGA tournaments than elsewhere. Caddies stood behind their players to help with alignment, directly in line with the intended flight of the ball, all the way through the swing. It not only looked a bit odd; it also seemed to slow the pace of play.
One Local Rule change should enhance safety. Under the current Rules of Golf, a player cannot remove a stone behind or near the golf ball in a bunker. The stone is considered a “loose impediment,” which are natural objects. A cigarette butt, however, is treated as a “movable obstruction,” and can be removed if no sand is displaced.
A cigarette butt is nowhere near as hard or scary as a stone behind the ball. The Year 2000 rules changes now permit golf committees to adopt a local rule that treats stones in bunkers as movable obstructions.
“It’s important to note that moving a stone in a bunker will still be a Rules violation unless a local committee elects to adopt the recommended language,” continued Mackenzie.
Cape Region clubs should jump at the chance, for the sake of their members.
Some changes seem unintentionally funny.
One revision alters the definition of “ground under repair.” These are places the local committee marks off, such a disturbed bit of turf around a newly fixed sprinkler head. Players finding their golf balls in such spots are entitled to take relief, if desired.
This year’s changes amend the Rules to state that a ball off the ground, but in a bush or tree rooted in ground under repair, is considered as in the ground under repair area.
Think about that one for a second.
A golf ball is hard enough to hit well when it just sits there on the turf. I don’t know too many golfers foolish enough to try to hit one stuck in a bush a foot off the ground, just to keep from taking a penalty stroke for an unplayable lie.
Well, sure, I’ve tried it.
And I’ve regretted it each time, too.
The new rules should be available in local pro shops next week. Really avid golfers can also call the USGA Order Department at 800-336-4446.