Golf's big leap with 2020 vision: Aims to make sport faster and more TV-friendly

Grant Moir (far left), the R&A's director (rules of golf) and David Bonsall, the chairman of the organisation's rules of golf committee, holding the British Open trophy.
Grant Moir (far left), the R&A's director (rules of golf) and David Bonsall, the chairman of the organisation's rules of golf committee, holding the British Open trophy.ST PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN

R&A to revise rules to make sport faster and more TV-friendly

Ask Singapore golfer Quincy Quek about his recent tournaments in China and the response is a resounding "spiky".

The courses' soft greens, combined with the cool climate and sheer number of golfers, meant marks were all over the course.

But what irked Quek most was how, under the existing rules, a golfer will incur a one-stroke penalty if he or she tried to repair damage caused by spikes.

Strange but true. A player's good intention to repair those divots is a golfing sin, according to the R&A's Rules of Golf published 63 years ago and still used worldwide today.

But common sense is finally prevailing, to the joy of 28-year-old Quek, as golf's ruling bodies, the R&A and the United States Golf Association (USGA), are in the midst of a fundamental review of the sport's rules targeted to be rolled out in 2020.

  • Four most significant changes in 2016 Rules of Golf

  • Withdrawal of rule on ball moving after address

    If a ball at rest moves after the player addresses it, the player is no longer automatically deemed to have caused the ball to move.

    Only when the player is deemed to have caused ball movement will a one-stroke penalty be applied.


    Limited exception to disqualification penalty for submission of incorrect score card

    A player will not be disqualified for returning a lower score for a hole than actually taken, provided the incorrect score is a result of failing to include penalty strokes that the player was unaware he had incurred before returning the score card.

    In all other cases in which a player returns a score for any hole lower than actually taken, the penalty will continue to be disqualification.


    Modification of penalty for a single impermissible use of artificial devices or equipment

    The penalty for a player's first breach of Rule 14-3 (Artificial devices, unusual equipment and abnormal use of equipment) during the round has been reduced from disqualification to loss of hole (match play) or two strokes (stroke play).

    The penalty for any subsequent breach of the same rule will continue to be disqualification.


    Prohibition on anchoring the club while making a stroke

    The new Rule 14-1b (Anchoring the Club) prohibits anchoring the club either "directly" or by use of an "anchor point" in making a stroke.

    The penalty is loss of hole (match play) or two strokes (stroke play)

David Bonsall, chairman of R&A's rules of golf committee, told The Straits Times yesterday: "Every 30 years or so, we do tend to have these significant reviews, and we definitely felt the time was right now.

"We've brought together people from the governing bodies, from the Tours, rules experts, to review everything about the current rules.

"It's very detailed, very extensive, but it's still about supporting and improving the game of golf and the way the rules play their part in the whole game."

He said the project, which started in April 2012, was comparable in significance and scale to the 1952 coming together of R&A and USGA to put out an agreed joint code of rules for global use.

A new rule book is published every four years.

The current review, called the Rules Review Project, aims to simplify the rules, and improve the pace of play.

The objective is to keep golf simple, cohesive, modern, and universal, while preserving the principles and ethos of the game.

Bonsall was speaking at the Sentosa Golf Club, venue of the R&A - South East Asia Rules Launch, Singapore event, where the R&A introduced its latest set of 34 rules, applicable from Jan 1 next year.

He added: "We don't know the exact timing, but it's part of the new cycle (2016-2020) that we are going into. It's a big step. That's why it takes a little while to go through the whole process."

Quek hopes the review will clear things up, adding: "There are a lot of rules which are quite weird. Sometimes you try use common sense to work out a situation, but the rule book doesn't reflect that.

"Many improvise as a result."

A confusion over the rules happened as recently as at this month's Presidents Cup in South Korea, which the United States won.

On the seventh tee, the US' Phil Mickelson decided to change his ball model. He was subsequently disqualified from the hole, while the US was docked another hole.

Partner Zach Johnson played the rest of the hole, part of a four-ball match, against Jason Day and Adam Scott, and lost.

In the end, the officials admitted they had made a mistake. While the one-hole adjustment was correct, Mickelson should have been allowed to play the rest of the hole.

Bonsall said this is one area the review will address.

He said: "No one likes to see that, and thankfully the result of the Presidents Cup did not depend on that outcome.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2015, with the headline 'GOLF'S BIG LEAP WITH 2020 VISION'. Print Edition | Subscribe