Rules of Golf Undergoes Biggest Overhaul Ever

Rules of Golf Undergoes Biggest Overhaul Ever
By Brian Hughes, PGA Master Professional
Keiser University College of Golf

For years now, any time there is a rules of golf controversy on one of the major professional tours, the cries come out saying the rules of the game are not fair, antiquated and need to be revised and simplified. The United States Golf Association, along with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in Scotland, the joint keepers of the rules for many years have finally given in and introduced the “modernized” rules of the game, set to implemented in January of 2019. After attending a 3-day seminar on the updated rules last week, I am reminded of a quote (wish I knew where it came from) stating “What is simple isn’t always fair and what is fair isn’t always simple.”

The effort to modernize the rules of the game has been a massive undertaking and the USGA and R&A deserve a fair amount of credit for taking on the challenge. Wording within the rules has been simplified, rules with similar outcomes have been condensed, and the number of rules has been reduced from 34 to 24. They have also done a remarkable job with their technology, as their website and apps provide a tremendous amount of information on the changes.

There have been a few changes that will simplify issues and take some of the vagueness out, such as one of my favorites where you are to take a drop as “near as possible” to a particular spot (not sure how many attempts are needed to accomplish that!). Another issue that comes up frequently that is a good change is eliminating many of the requirements for dropping and re-dropping a golf ball – most players currently don’t know and proceed incorrectly.

In the effort to be fairer, some of the changes unfortunately come across as more complicated, putting more of a responsibility on rules officials to interpret the intent of a player. While certainly golfers have always been responsible for their own actions, the ability to measure a player’s intent potentially creates more rules issues and inconsistency.

After attending the USGA workshop, my feelings on the new rules remain mixed.  My knowledge of the new book was certainly enhanced, and the three long days was worthwhile from my perspective as Keiser’s Rules of Golf instructor.  I like some of the changes and feel they make a certain amount of sense. However, I would not want to be a rules official in charge of running a club event or amateur competition early next year, as there will be plenty of confusion in store for players and rules officials alike.

If you’d like to study with Brian Hughes and other PGA Master Professionals, contact the College of Golf today.