Date: November 29, 2007
Author: Bren O'Brien

R&A explains rule changes

The Royal and Ancient Rules of Golf Committee have outlined a number of changes to the rules of the game to be introduced from next year. Speaking in Melbourne during the recent MasterCard Masters, chairman Alan Holmes and director of rules and equipment standards David Rickman said the body charged with determining golf rules had conducted its traditional four year review and come up with several key changes to the current rules of golf. Rickman said there were two major changes to the 34 rules of golf, while 26 others had undergone minor changes in the review undertaken over the past 12 months. The two main changes concern a player contacting his own ball after he has struck it and the rules surrounding identifying balls in a hazard. Rickman said an incident in the 1990 Australian Open in 1990 had highlighted why Rule 19-2 had to be changed. “Some of you may remember an incident when Brett Ogle, in contention in the final round, got himself behind a tree and in trying to play a stroke, the ball rebounded off that tree and struck him not only to his considerable injury, I think he broke his kneecap, but to add insult to injury, the penalty is two strokes for a breach of Rule 19-2,” Rickman said. “With effect from 1 January 2008 the penalty is reduced from two to one in both forms of play (stroke play and match play),” he said. Previously in match play, the penalty was forfeiture of that hole, and Rickman said the new penalty of just one shot was much fairer. Rule 12-2, which relates to identifying your ball, has also been altered to assist players in a hazard. “The current rule prohibits a player from lifting a ball for identification in a hazard. In a water hazard or a bunker and you can&apost identify your ball, you simply play it and do the identification once you&aposve got the ball out of that hazard,” he said. Rickman said that was not sustainable given that a player could lose their ball on their subsequent shot and not know if they played the right ball. He said players will now be able to lift the ball to identify in a hazard, but players would now be penalised if they struck the wrong ball from this situation. The penalty is two shots for stroke play and loss of hole for match play. “It is a very natural thing for somebody to want to do, life their ball for identification,” he said. “If you have two balls close to each other in a bunker and neither is identifiable, we currently have to turn to an equity decision.” “We clarify that if the lie alters in anyway during the process, then the rules are going to require you to recreate the original lie.” The other changes surround equipment regulation, amateur status and the temporary immovable obstruction laws. The new rule booklets will available at every golf club in Australia. The rules are also available on the R&A website.