The R&A and USGA have announced the first four-yearly review of the new laws of the game. Our rules expert distils the changes you need to be aware of... Has it really been four years? Time has certainly flown since the R&A and USGA made the biggest changes to the laws of the game in a generation with the 2019 Rules of Golf. But the modernisation never stops and now the two governing bodies have announced the results of the first regular update to the 'new' rules as they strive to make them easier to understand and apply. You won’t find anything as fundamental as establishing relief areas, and changing the drop procedure from shoulder to knee high this time around, but the R&A and USGA have still made some 40 substantive changes and altered or added four Model Local Rules. The new rules come into effect on January 1 next year, so the current edition of the Rules of Golf still applies if you’re playing or posting scores until that date. Here are some of the key changes that will greet the New Year... There is a new rule: The 24 Rules have become 25 as the Modifications for Players with Disabilities are made part of the overall Rule Book. No penalties for not putting handicaps on scorecards: This used to come with a heavy sanction. Failing to put your handicap on your scorecard meant disqualification. Now, an amendment to Rule 3.3b (4) means you are no longer required to show your handicap on your scorecard. Instead, committees will be responsible for ensuring the accuracy of each player’s handicap and calculating it for the competition. This change has been made to keep up to date with the continued growth of score-posting technology following the introduction of the World Handicap System. Clubs could use a new Model Local Rule, though, to put the responsibility back on the player. Replacing a damaged club: This is a change to Rule 4.1a (2) and it allows players to replace a club that is damaged during a round. The caveat is the club must not have been damaged through abuse. Replacing a ball moved by natural forces: A new exception has been added to Rule 9.3 which says a ball at rest must be replaced if it moves to another area of the course after being dropped, placed, or replaced. This is also the case if the ball comes to rest out of bounds. New back-on-the-line relief rules: You’ve all used this when taking relief from a penalty area or an unplayable ball. The procedure has been made a little easier in the 2023 Rule Book. Now, when you drop your ball on the line, the ball must come to rest within a club-length of where it is dropped. That club length can be in any direction (yes, that means forward!). Don't stand behind your partner: You are in breach of Rule 10.2b (4) if, once you begin taking a stance for a stroke,...
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