Getting to grips with golf’s 2016 rule changes

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If one of your New Year resolutions is to get out on the golf course more, it’s worth noting that a number of new rule changes came into effect on January 1, 2016. While these rule changes often seem obscure, this year’s alterations have been forced through due to changes in golf technology. This technology could also lead to far more frequent tweaks to the rules in future.

The most publicised of these changes is the new ban on anchoring the golf club during a swing. This is expected to have a huge impact on the putting methods of approximately five percent of golfers worldwide, not least professionals like Adam Scott, Tim Clark, Ernie Els, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson.

Announcing the changes on the USGA website, USGA President Glen Nager said: “Having considered all of the input that we received, both before and after the proposed rule was announced, our best judgment is that rule 14-1b is necessary to preserve one of the important traditions and challenges of the game – that the player freely swing the entire club.

“The new rule upholds the essential nature of the traditional method of stroke and eliminates the possible advantage that anchoring provides, ensuring that players of all skill levels face the same challenge inherent in the game of golf.”

The new rule 14-1b states:

Anchoring the club – In making a stroke, the player must not anchor the club, either “directly” or by use of an “anchor point”.

Note 1: The club is anchored “directly” when the player intentionally holds the club or a gripping hand in contact with any part of his body, except that the player may hold the club or a gripping hand against a hand or forearm.

Note 2: An “anchor point” exists when the player intentionally holds a forearm in contact with any part of his body to establish a gripping hand as a stable point around which the other hand may swing the club.

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It was noted that the belly and broomstick putters are still legal to use, as it is just the anchoring method that will become illegal. Although the new rule change has been endorsed by the R&A, it’s an issue that is expected to be hugely controversial with a number of the professional golfers affected leading the criticism.

Away from the anchoring ban, a rule has been withdrawn that used to penalise a golfer one stroke if the ball at rest moves after it has been addressed. Now, if the ball moves and it is proven that it was not caused by the golfer, there will be no penalty.

A change to the penalty applied for signing an incorrect scorecard has also been included. This states that a player is no longer disqualified for returning a lower score than was correct as a result of failing to include penalty strokes that the player did not know were incurred. Instead, the player incurs the penalty under the rule that was breached and must add an additional penalty of two strokes for the scorecard 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 a disqualification.

The final rule change means a golfer will only receive a two-stroke penalty for a first infringement using an artificial device or equipment. Previously, if you used a wind gauge or a training device on the course, that meant instant disqualification. However, any repeat offence will now result in a two-stroke penalty.

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