USGA’s New Rules for Golf

Beginning January 2019, the United States Golf Association will enact new rules for American and Mexican golfers. This is a response to the consistent complaints against a few of the long standing regulations that have been practiced since the beginning of the Association. Both professionals and amateurs have voiced their praise of the new rules and potential justice for frustrated golfers everywhere, but some of these new regulations address a wide variety of different needs for different generations of players.

Though the rules proposed in the soon-to-be updated USGA rulebook are only being discussed at the moment, some of them seem long awaited and others unnecessary. One rule in particular that has been under scrutiny recently on the professional tours, is rule 14-5 which states that if a player has addressed the ball and the ball moves, there is a one stroke penalty incurred. The USGA has tried in various revisions of their rulebook to revise the rule and make it flexible for different situations on the golf course. Yet even with their efforts, every avid golfer has had this happen to them at one time or another in their golf career.

Every golfer knows how frustrating it is when your ball moves without your consent, and the result is a penalty. The ball moving was not your fault, but you are penalized for a golf ball’s lack of ability to hold its own weight. It is because of this that the USGA has felt pressured in revising this rule. It’s understandable, but this is not the only regulation being questioned for change. Other proposed changes include being able to putt with the flagstick in the hole without incurring a penalty, being allowed to fix shoe spikes and foot prints, caddies no longer being allowed to line up a player, and a shorter allotted time to hit a shot.

Another one of the proposed rules is to make it an option to take a player’s ball out of a bunker and drop it in the fairway or the closest spot available, while incurring a two stroke penalty. To someone who firmly beliefs in rule 3-3, which states to play the ball as it lies, this potential option completely disregards the fundamentals of the game. It may be too traditional to think this way but making it an option to move your ball to a more preferable spot simply because you have the choice does not make sense when the one rule in golf that everyone knows and everyone gets is to play the ball as it lies.

Adam Scott, Kevin Kisner, Brandt Snedeker, and Tiger Woods have all praised the new rules in one way or another. They all agree that this is for the best when it comes to the progression of the game. Citing slow play and too many regulations, this is a way to make the game more appealing to both players and spectators of the game. The USGA has allowed for a six month comment period on the proposed changes which I assume will be used to the fullest.

For rules such as these, there should be a separate USGA set of rules for amateurs and professionals. Golfers who play recreationally versus golfers who play the sport as their vocation have different standards when playing the game. It depends on the kind of player you are, whether more strict on the rules or using the rules as a way to benefit your own golf. Those who play with their friends and as a way to let loose in the week will most likely benefit and much appreciate the new rules regarding bunkers and flagsticks. But those who play golf for competition require a more raw and strict way of playing that makes the game more competitive.

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