Wed, Oct 28, 2015 - Page 18 News List

Golf rules update more lenient on penalties


Golfers no longer face automatic disqualification for two violations, including an incorrect scorecard, under the latest set of rules that reflect a little more leniency in handing out penalties.

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (R&A) and the US Golf Association (USGA) announced changes to next year’s edition of the Rules of Golf, which is updated every four years.

Players will avoid disqualification if the incorrect scorecard is the result of penalty strokes they did not know about when they finished their rounds. The penalty was also softened for players using artificial devices, such as training aids, in the middle of the round.

The new rules take effect on Jan. 1 next year.

The most notable addition was Rule 14-1b, which bans an anchored stroke used primarily for long putters. That already went through an exhaustive discussion and debate two years ago, along with some protesting from the PGA of America that it would keep some recreational golfers from playing.

Changes were made to 18 of the 34 rules. Most of them were tweaks, although there were two instances when the penalty no longer is disqualification.

“I think we would take the view that we’re certainly always looking to apply proportionate penalties, and we’re very conscious that disqualification is a very serious situation, and the removal from competition is something that we should use judiciously and therefore only when appropriate,” R&A executive director of rules and equipment standards David Rickman said.

“We feel that this is a step in that right direction,” Rickman added.


One of those changes involved the scorecard.

Players still face disqualification if they sign for a lower score on a hole. However, the new exception to Rule 6-6d allows a player to avoid disqualification if the score includes a penalty that was discovered only after he signed his card.

Previously, players were disqualified if a violation was reported after the round, because their scorecards did not account for the penalty strokes. Starting next year, players would have the penalty added to the hole, along with an additional two-shot penalty for the scorecard error.

One example was Camilo Villegas, who chipped up the slope to the 15th green at Kapalua in 2011, and the ball rolled back toward him. Villegas casually swatted away some loose pieces of grass in front of the divot as the ball was moving in that direction. The violation (23-1) was detected by a TV viewer after the round. It was a two-shot penalty, and thus Villegas was disqualified for an incorrect card.

Under the new rule, Villegas would have four shots added to his score — two for the rules violation, two for the scorecard error. However, he would remain in the tournament (unless the additional shots meant he missed the cut).

Rickman said the case of Tiger Woods at the 2013 Masters does not apply.

Woods took an incorrect drop on the 15th hole of the second round. A former rules official saw it on TV and notified the Masters rules committee, which decided it was not a violation and Woods signed for a 71. Only later, after the committee spoke to Woods, was it a clear violation. He was given a two-shot penalty, but not disqualified because the committee felt it was at fault.

Rickman said the new exception to Rule 6-6d would not have applied, because a committee error was involved.

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