USGA, R&A Considering Major Rules Changes

Diana Murphy is the president of the USGA.
Diana Murphy is the president of the USGA.

You may have already heard the rumors: golf’s governing bodies, the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the Royal & Ancient (R&A), have reportedly agreed on a series of rules changes in order to simplify and speed up the game.

I can’t wait for Dr. Robin Farran, who teaches Advanced Rules at the Golf Academy of America in Phoenix and who is one of the USGA’s top Rules Officials to weigh-in. Stay tuned for that response!

In the meantime, while I wish I was on the front lines of decisions likes these, I’m not. So I’ll just re-post a copy of the article that was recently published online at It’s only fitting that an article about the Rules of Golf be written by a man named Alistair:

The Rules of Golf Are About to Undergo a Big Makeover
By Alistair Tait

Get ready for arguably the biggest shake up to the Rules of Golf in generations.

The R&A and USGA are set to introduce a plethora of revised rules that will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. It will be an attempt to simplify the code by which the game is played. David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of rules, addressed the European Tour’s players during a meeting at last week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, where he highlighted new innovations being considered for the 2020 edition of the Rules of Golf.

Golfweek understands that among the revised rules under consideration are: reducing the search time for lost balls from five minutes to three; allowing players to repair spike marks on greens; allowing players to drop a ball from any height when taking relief rather than the current stipulation of shoulder height; more of an emphasis on using red stakes for water hazards while still allowing yellow stakes in some cases; and eliminating the use of club lengths for taking relief.

Golfweek contacted the R&A, but a spokesman said: “the R&A does not wish to comment at this time since the rules process is still under review.”

Lost ball
Among the revised rules under consideration: reducing the search time for lost balls from five minutes to three.

The three-minute search rule will be seen as a means to try to speed up the game, while tour professionals will cheer any new rule allowing spike marks to be repaired. Professionals have complained for years at the unfairness of earlier groups playing on perfect greens while the leaders have to putt through marks left by the rest of the field.

The European Tour even defied the R&A on this issue during the 1976 season, allowing its members to fix spike marks. Previous R&A chief executive Peter Dawson revealed during his tenure that the R&A and USGA were working on a process to bring more clarity to the rules.

In 2013, he said: “This whole issue of complexity of the rules is important. We are actually doing a study at the moment with the USGA and the professional game to see if we feel the rules can be materially simplified. The group working on that is just about to come to a conclusion about whether we can go forward with that, and there is a lot of excitement about it.”

It’s taken over three years for the governing bodies to complete this process. The R&A and USGA are expected to reveal the full extent of the changes shortly.

Strike That, Reverse It
Another article published by shortly thereafter clarified a few points. While a USGA spokesperson declined to comment on the specifics of the proposed changes, they did confirm an implementation date of 2019, not 2020. Also, the governing bodies have been “mulling over various rule changes since 2013.” A preview of the changes will be released in March.

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