R&A Announces New Interpretations Of Golf Rules

The R&A and the United States Golf Association (the "USGA"), golf's governing bodies, have announced no fewer than 111 amendments to the book, "Decisions on the Rules of Golf," published every two years and effective for all golfers on January 1, 2006.

The 2006-2007 Decisions book, published by Hamlyn, includes 37 new decisions and 66 revised decisions, while eight decisions are withdrawn. The principal change is the governing bodies' sanction of the use of distance measuring devices, including GPS-based systems and laser rangefinders. New Decision 14-3/0.5 allows a Committee to permit the use of distance measuring devices by Local Rule. This applies to devices that measure distance only, not any other conditions that might affect a player's play (e.g. wind or gradient). In the absence of such a Local Rule, the use of a distance-measuring device remains contrary to the Rules.

The latest Decisions book also gives a Committee the ability to help the player who has signed for the correct score, but on the wrong score card. Mark Roe and Jesper Parnevik were disqualified from The Open Championship in 2003 under such circumstances. In the future, such an "administrative error" can be corrected without penalty. Revised Decision 6-6d/4 gives a Committee the power to strike the wrong name from an otherwise correctly completed score card and add the correct name, without limit of time.

Each year the R&A and the USGA receive thousands of requests to clarify the Rules for on-course incidents that have occurred at all levels of the game, throughout the world. With changes to the Rules of Golf established on a four-year rolling cycle, the facility to publish official interpretations of the Rules in the Decisions book every two years, in response to events, is helpful to the game. The book contains over 1,200 individual Decisions, which are set out in question-and-answer format.

Another New Decision (Decision 16-1e/2) helps the player who inadvertently makes a putting stroke with both feet square on to the hole, often to avoid taking a stance on another player's line of putt. In this instance, the player will not now be penalized under Rule 16-1e, which has as its true purpose the prevention of "croquet-style" putting.

A significant revision to Decision 4-3/1 is also a feature on the 2006-2007 Decisions on the Rules of Golf. A change in the interpretation of what is considered to be the "normal course of play" will allow the repair or replacement of a damaged club, provided that the club was not abused.

The new edition of Decisions on the Rules of Golf will be published on November 15, 2005. It is priced at 14.99 and is available from bookshops or from www.randa.org.