On Monday 26th October, the R&A and the United States Golf Association (USGA) announced the publication of the 2016 edition of the Rules of Golf that takes effect on January 1, 2016. There are four significant changes, including the ban on anchoring, which we have known about for some time. Here is a summary of the main changes to the Rules effective 1st January 2016 from the official press release.

Withdrawal of Rule on Ball Moving After Address – Rule 18-2b This means that if a ball at rest moves after the player addresses it, the player is no longer automatically deemed to have caused the ball to move. A one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2 will be applied only when the facts show that the player has caused the ball to move.

Comment: This removes one of the most common retrospective penalties applied following armchair viewers phoning in to report a suspected breach. Effectively, the removal of the Rule means that there no longer will be any presumption that a player has moved their ball after grounding their club in preparation for a stroke. The same overall test in Rule 18-2 will apply to all actions by the player, whether they have addressed their ball, or not; they only incur the one stroke penalty if the facts show that any of their actions caused their ball to move. If they have incurred the penalty the ball must be replaced.

Limited Exception to Disqualification Penalty for Submission of Incorrect Score Card A new exception has been introduced to Rule 6-6d (Wrong Score for Hole) to provide that a player is not disqualified for returning a lower score for a hole than actually taken as a result of failing to include penalty strokes that the player did not know were incurred before returning the score card. Instead, the player incurs the penalty under the Rule that was breached and must then add an additional penalty of two strokes for the score card error. In all other cases in which a player returns a score for any hole lower than actually taken, the penalty will continue to be disqualification.

Comment: So, for example, a player signs their score card with a score of 4 on a hole. Subsequently, they are advised that they forgot to replace their ball on the putting green on that hole, having moved it one putter-head to the side on the request of a fellow competitor. Under the current Rule the player is disqualified for this breach, but the revised Rule means that their score for the hole will be 4, plus two strokes penalty for the breach and a further two strokes for the score card error, making 8 for the hole. Note that this exception does not apply to arithmetical breaches on the score card.

Modification of Penalty for a Single Impermissible Use of Artificial Devices or Equipment The penalty for a player’s first breach of Rule 14-3 (Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment and Abnormal Use of Equipment) during the round has been reduced from disqualification to loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play. The penalty for any subsequent breach of Rule 14-3 will continue to be disqualification.

Comment: There are two changes to this Rule. The first is purely a reduction in the penalty for using a device or equipment that is not permitted. For example, if a player uses a swing aid while waiting on a teeing ground they incur a penalty of two strokes, instead of being disqualified. However, if they are silly enough to do the same thing later in the round the disqualification penalty does apply. The second change confirms that a multi-functional device, such as smart phone or PDA, may be used as a distance-measuring device (if a Local Rule permits), but must not be used to gauge or measure other conditions, where doing so would be a breach of Rule 14-3. This removes the restriction on using a smart device for distance measuring because it is capable of other functions that are not permitted, even if they are not used during the round. The player will only be penalised if they access or use such information.

Prohibition on Anchoring the Club While Making a Stroke As announced back in May 2013, the new Rule 14-1b (Anchoring the Club) prohibits anchoring a club either ‘directly’ or by use of an ‘anchor point’ in making a stroke. The penalty is loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play.

Comment: The most important point to understand about this new Rule is that it is not an equipment Rule; players may continue to use long-handled putters. The ban is to prohibit players from using an anchoring technique to make their stroke either ‘directly’ or by use of an ‘anchor point.’

The above are the main amendments to the Rules for 2016, but there are other clarifications, or changes to the wording, designed to make some Rules easier for the player to interpret and understand

…Information taken from Barry Rhodes Rules of Golf Website  www.barryrhodes.com