If wind moves ball, new rule will result in no penalty

The United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient rules committees took big steps in their efforts to make the rules of golf a little more practical and user-friendly when they announced the latest revisions, effective Jan. 1, 2012 for four years.

In addition, the official rules books across the world will offer identical formatting except for differences in native languages. This might sound simple, but wasn’t, according to Thomas Pagel, the USGA director of rules. “It took a lot of time to get it done properly.”

While too late to help Webb Simpson, who suffered a one-stroke penalty when the wind moved his ball and cost him a chance to win the Zurich Classic, a player will no longer be penalized if it is known or virtually certain they did not cause the ball to move after the player has addressed it on the green. The usual culprit is the wind. The ball is in play from its new position. It had to be replaced in the past.

Simpson was happy, saying that all of the professionals felt it should have been changed as they had to worry about the ball moving in windy conditions, distracting them from holing the putts in some cases or taking longer to actually address the ball.

The new definition for addressing the ball will be when a player grounds his club immediately in front or behind the ball regardless if he or she has taken the stance.

The penalty for arriving late, but within five minutes of a starting time will not be disqualification.  Instead, he or she will be penalized two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play. Rules committees had to post a local condition of the competition in the past if they wished to follow this practice.

Players and their caddies who might be retrieving a rake in a bunker will now be allowed to smooth footprints in the sand in a hazard at any time, even before playing, provided it is for the sole purpose of caring for the course, not improving the lie, the area of the intended stance or swing or the line of play.

In the past, a player who took an improper drop from an obstruction like a cart path faced multiple penalties—two for playing from the wrong position and one for an improper drop. Now the third penalty stroke will be dropped.

Searching for a ball will be amended to permit a player to search for his ball anywhere on the course when it may be covered by sand and to clarify that there is no penalty if the ball is moved in these circumstances. However, if a ball in a hazard is moved when covered by loose impediments (such as leaves), there will be a one-stroke penalty.

If there is enough evidence to suggest that it is obvious your ball is in a water hazard, you nom longer have to establish virtual certainty that it is.

As long as no advantage is gained, changing an area of the course, i.e. repairing a pitch mark five yards in front of your ball, will not necessarily result in a penalty.

While too late to help British amateur Tom Lewis, changes in the Rules of Amateur Status will certainly make it easier for the game’s elite players  preparing to make the transition from amateur to the professional ranks. .

An amateur may now enter into a contract and/or agreement with his national golf union or association, provided he does not obtain any financial gain, directly or indirectly, while still an amateur.

He or she can also enter into a contract and/or agreement with a third party agent, acting solely in relation to the golfer’s future as a professional golfer, provided there is no financial gain or a requirement to play in certain tournaments while still an amateur.

He or she may receive reasonable subsistence expenses, not to exceed actual costs, to assist with living expenses provided they are approved by and paid through the player’s national golf union or association,

Amateurs will no longer lose their amateur status for accepting large prizes like automobiles for a hole-in-one. The revision does not apply to long drive or closest-to-the-pin prizes, however.

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