HSBC Women’s Champions 2017

Golf: Majority in favour of revamped rules

Lydia Ko of New Zealand at the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore, on March 2, 2017.
Lydia Ko of New Zealand at the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore, on March 2, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

Proposed changes by golf's governing bodies are meant to simplify and speed up the game

For years, women's world No. 1 golfer Lydia Ko has routinely had her caddie line her up as part of her pre-shot routine.

That practice will no longer be allowed in 2019, when the proposed rule changes by game's governing bodies The R&A and United States Golf Association come into effect.

The decision to prohibit caddies from standing behind their player to assist them with alignment was one of 30 recommendations announced on Wednesday night, aimed at simplifying and speeding up the game, .

While directly affected by the "alignment for a stroke" ruling, Ko said yesterday at the HSBC Women's Champions that the new guidelines "made sense" and were "going in the right direction".

The 19-year-old, who has won 14 LPGA Tour titles including two Majors, added: "I've got two years to get myself to line up straight. They gave me enough time to practise my alignment, so I can't really be complaining."

  • Likely tweaks

  • •A player will be allowed to ground his club everywhere except a bunker. The next rulebook will feature the term "penalty area", not "hazard".

    •Any damage, including spike marks, on greens can now be repaired. Previously, players were allowed to fix only ball marks in their lines.

    •Instead of dropping a ball at shoulder height, players can release the ball at any height above one inch.

    •The area allowed for relief is also expanded from one or two club-lengths to distances of between of 20 inches (cart paths, ground under repair, etc) to 80 inches (unplayable lie, penalty area drops).

    •The search time for lost balls has been reduced from five to three minutes.

    •Caddies cannot stand behind a player and help with alignment while the player takes a stance.

    •Rangefinders can be used to measure distances, except when prohibited by a local rule. It is unclear as yet if this will apply to the professional tours.

    •There will be no penalty if a player's ball accidentally deflects off him.

It was a sentiment shared by many on the LPGA, despite the practice being more common among the women's circuit than on the men's PGA Tour.

Hall of Famer and seven-time Major champion Karrie Webb told The Straits Times: "It's better late than never but it should have been done a long time ago.

"If you're a professional golfer, you should know how to line yourself up. It's one of the skills of playing golf."

American world No. 32 Brittany Lincicome, who won January's Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic and is a double Major winner, was one of the few dissenters. She tweeted: "I disagree! Lining players up has nothing to do with pace of play. I get 40sec, I should be able to do what I want."

MORE PALATABLE FOR AUDIENCES

Lots of thought and hard work by USGA and R&A to modernise our rules. Great work to benefit the game. ''

TIGER WOODS , former men's world No. 1 golfer, feels that the revamped rules will help move the game forward.

Other proposals include cutting the search time for lost balls from five minutes to three, allowing players to drop a ball from any height when taking relief, and scrapping the rule that penalises players who are struck by their own ball.

If enacted, the changes would shrink the main rules and definitions from 34 to 24.

A host of high-profile golfers, including former world No. 1s Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, were quick to offer their approval,

Woods tweeted: "Lots of thought and hard work by USGA and R&A to modernise our rules. Great work to benefit the game."

McIlroy added: "I think golf's emphasis on the rules can sometimes turn people away from it... To modernise and make it simple is a good thing."

Men's world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who won last year's US Open despite being penalised when high definition video showed his ball moved slightly as he prepared to putt at the 12th hole of his final round, praised the move.

"Obviously some of the rule changes I think are really good, especially the ball on the putting green," he said while preparing for the World Golf Championships tournament in Mexico City.

"When you don't feel like you caused it to move and you're still getting a penalty, that, to me, makes no sense, so I think some of the rule changes are good."

The R&A is seeking feedback on the plans until the end of August, with any amendments to be made before the new rules come into effect from Jan 1, 2019.

HSBC WOMEN'S CHAMPIONS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2017, with the headline 'Majority in favour of revamped rules'. Print Edition | Subscribe