Modernizing Golf’s Rules: Key Proposed Changes

Today we received a notice from the USGA that it and the R&A  have announced the next step – of which I hope there will be many more—in modernizing (simplifying) the rules.

After a great deal of effort by many for this to happen over a long period of time I am pleased that both the USGA and the R&A are working together to make this very important step.

Today’s proposal includes 5 key changes which can be seen in the infographic below (there are more proposed changes detailed on the USGA website at which we will address in future web postings).

USGA-RulesModernizationKeyChanges 24february2017


I’d like to congratulate the governing bodies for considering these changes and the fact they have asked for feedback.

Here are my personal comments re. each of these proposed 5  key changes:

How to Drop the Ball: Because there is no specified height from which the ball can be dropped a one inch, or even half an inch drop would be permissible. This may provide room for abuse and is difficult to monitor. If placing the ball instead of dropping the ball is not going to affect the intent of the change, then doing away with dropping the ball would be a better solution as it would avoid abuse and controversy, and rather, just allow golfers to place the ball.

Time for Ball Search: Three minutes from five minutes to look for your ball is not a significant change, but is a move in the right direction.

Repairing Spike Marks: This is a reasonable change, although may take extra time on the green and may be abused.

Leaving Flagstick in the Hole: This makes sense and will speed up play.

Relaxed Rules in Penalty Area: This will leave the demarcation of a water hazard for the sole purpose of determining where you can take relief if you so choose.

In general, the governing bodies must be congratulated for moving in the right direction.

Please review these proposed changes and give us your input and share your thoughts by replying below.

For those of you who are interested in learning more about the Rules of Golf, and how I have proposed that they should be changed is laid out very clearly in both books “Just Hit It- Our Equipment and Our Game” (with a foreword from Jack Nicklaus) and “From Sticks and Stones- The Evolution of Golf Equipment Rules”, which we are currently offering in a special book bundle.



15 thoughts on “Modernizing Golf’s Rules: Key Proposed Changes

  1. I would like to see one additional rule governing the alignment mark on the ball. The constant marking and checking alignment is ridiculous. Talk about slowing play. I have never used one and use the whole ball to visualize the line. I wish the rest of my game was as good as my putting.

  2. Given today’s sense and stretch of morals and ethics, it won’t take long for abuse and excess to occur, and then rapidly expand. Of particular note is” unattended flagstick remaining in hole” effectively placing a potential assist for making putt. Other than perceived “pace of play”, what are we really accomplishing, other than degrading a marvelous time-tested game?

    • For most of golf’s history you could putt with the flagstick in the hole. That rule was adopted only in the early 1960’s, to the regret of caddies. Maybe the PGA Tour will keep this rule, but I don’t need the pin attended when I’m 30′ or more from the hole.

      • Have to wonder about player’s rule interpretation from distances of let’s say 3-5 feet whereby flagstick can provide meaningful high percentage assist.

  3. Love the changes! Too bad we have to wait two years for full implementation. The only thing that is missing is a free drop from a divot in the fairway. This is the most archaic rule and unfairly penalizes a following golfer who now isn’t playing the same lie and fairway as the golfer making the divot.

  4. The stroke and distance penalty has the most abuse and slows the game down immensely. The USGA experimented with taking a drop similar to a lateral hazard in the 60s for OB or Lost Ball. I know that could be grossly abused, but what the hell. I want to finish in 3 1/2 hours. So many players do it that way now it probably wouldn’t be a big deal.

  5. I absolutely applaud the USGA for finally trying to make golf simpler and faster, but they didn’t propose some obvious rules changes everyone would want.

    1. Wouldn’t it be nice to get a free drop from a divot or aeration hole? If you get relief from a tire rut you should get relief from any damage to the course.

    2. Playing on a hilly course without knowing elevation changes places a first time player at a major disadvantage to a regular player of that course or someone with a caddie who knows the course. If you allow distance measuring devices you should allow elevation measuring devices also. I remember when it was ILLEGAL to place any yardage markers on the course. 150 yard markers were actually removed from courses when hosting a PGA event! It’s more fair to allow everyone to know yardages and speeds up play. The same logic applies to elevation changes. If some people know the green is 13 yards higher than the tee on a par three, then everyone should know that.

  6. At the tender age of 74, I agree with Fred. Rules need to keep up with the times. I would age a couple as in if you can’t find your ball, just drop another where you think it might be a play on. Going back to the tee? I think not.

  7. Everyone at my two golf clubs wears spikeless shoes so repairing spike marks is a non sequitur. However, ball marks are everywhere and part of the reason is that our greens are much firmer and it’s harder to see ball marks. Do tour pros still use spiked shoes because I don’t see them for sale in pro shops or golf stores. I hope the USGA continues to modernize with pace of play being the holy grail. The rules on equipment need to be modernized. Anchoring, moment of inertia, coefficient of restitution and groove rules are absurd. 70 y/o golfers can’t be equated with 70 y/o surgeons and for most of my 70 yrs the USGA has been most concerned about preserving the sanctity of par. Par today isn’t what it was 100 yrs ago when course records were 66 not 59. Bottom line is I agree with ALL the proposed rules changes.

    • there are still foot draggers who leave marks on the green: sometimes they have physical disabilities (in which case they really should not wear spikes, plastic or otherwise), or they just can’t be bothered to pick up their feet.

      it’s nice not to have them be rubs of the green.

      I’m with you: agree with all the changes, and anything more in that direction.

  8. How much of the ball must be submerged for it to be considered “embedded?” In some conditions even less than 25 % below turf level would handicap the player.

  9. ‘Jack’ used to spend an inordinate amount of time “Gardening” on the greens.!!
    Must have been a ‘few’ spike marks that got in the way.!!

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