The Rules of Golf are ever evolving as the United States Golf Association (USGA) and Royal & Ancient Golf Club (R&A) tinker in an effort to make the game better. As the New Year begins, the governing bodies have again modified the rules we (mostly) play by.
To ensure you are up to date as your next trip to Myrtle Beach draws closer, here are the three rules changes most likely to impact your golf vacation:
Damaged Clubs Begone
For whatever the reasons, the game’s governing bodies had prevented the replacement of damaged clubs during a round, a rule whose time is now past with one significant caveat. If your driver face breaks during a round, your putter head comes off, or a shaft snaps, you can now legally replace the club without penalty as long as the damage occurs inadvertently. If, on the other hand, you slam a club to the ground after hooking the ball in the water while attempting to hit the alternate island fairway on “The Gambler” and it breaks, you are stuck with the wounded club.
Relief For Bad Luck
Under the previous rule, if a ball was moved by natural forces (other than on the green) you were forced to play it as it lies. This was a rule that resulted in Rickie Fowler taking a triple bogey at 2019 Waste Management Open when a ball he dropped rolled into the water as he was surveying his next shot. Under the new rule, if a ball rolls to another area of the course or comes to rest out of bounds, it will be returned to its previous spot. Score this one as a victory for common sense.
Back of Line Relief
When you hit a ball into a penalty area or are forced to take an unplayable lie, you receive back of the line relief, but establishing where the back of the line is hasn’t always been easy. Previously, if you dropped a ball and it rolled closer to the hole, you were forced to drop it again. Under the new rule, you take a drop and can play it, even if it’s closer to the hole, as long as the ball comes to a rest within a club length of where the drop took place. Again, another victory for common sense and pace of play.
While those are the three new rules most likely to impact your trip, they aren’t the only changes. The USGA made a variety of what were previously local rules a permanent part of the rulebook and the governing body also eliminated the antiquated penalty for not writing your handicap on your scorecard.
The USGA often comes under scrutiny for its stewardship of the game’s rules but it’s difficult to find fault with the changes implemented for 2023.