The 2016 edition of the Rules of Golf have been released by the R&A and the USGA. The new rendition of the game’s seemingly arcane rules takes effect on Jan. 1, 2016. Golfers who want to shave strokes should note some significant changes.
Ball Moving after Address
One is the withdrawal of Rule 18-2b (Ball Moving after Address). This means that if a ball at rest moves after you address it, you are no longer automatically deemed to have caused the movement and no longer earn an automatic one-stroke penalty. If you cause the ball to move, though, say by touching it or disturbing the grass on which it lays so that it wobbles, you’re still going to get that penalty stroke.
The most well publicized rule change for the year is the implementation of Rule 14-1b, which prohibits anchoring the club while making a stroke. It will apply most often to those who use a long putter, either pressing it against their belly or otherwise anchoring it to some part of the body during the stroke. The penalty is loss of hole in match play or two strokes in medal play. There are lots of variations of this practice, none of which are legal under the new rules. For a complete explanation of the rule including photos of prohibited strokes, see here.
Another rule modification changes the penalties for returning a lower score for a hole as a result of failing to include penalty strokes that the player did not know were incurred before signing the scorecard. Instead of a complete disqualification as under the old rules, the player now incurs the original penalty stroke and two additional strokes.
The penalty for using an artificial device or equipment during the round (like swinging a weighted practice club while waiting for the group ahead to move out of the way) has been reduced from disqualification to loss of hole in match play or two strokes in medal play. The change applies only to the first occurrence, however, and subsequent breaches of the rule will continue to cause disqualification.
The new rules are the culmination of the normal four-year review cycle and are a collaborative work by The R&A and the USGA. Complete details are available here.