CLOSER LOOK: Proposed new Rules of Golf on the putting green

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The R&A and USGA are looking for feedback on their proposed new golf rules, so lets take a closer look at those related to the putting green.

The R&A and the USGA have proposed over 30 changes to simplify rules of golf and we thought we’d take a closer look at some of them, starting with some relaxed rules on the putting green. In general we think these five changes make sense and while they wouldn’t necessarily speed of play, they would at least simplify the rules of the putting green.

Ball striking an unattended flagstick
One of the biggest changes to catch our eye was the one allowing for putts to strike an unattended flagstick.

Under the current rules, if a golf ball is played from on the green and strikes an unattended flagstick they would be penalised 2-strokes, or a loss of hole in match play. Under the new proposed rules their would be no penalty.

Generally we think this is a good idea and means that golfers can quickly putt out without taking the flagstick out of the hole. It does simplify the rules but as usual some have pointed out that it may be abused. Dottie Pepper pointed out that it in her take on the new golf rules over at ESPN:

“So what is to stop a player who has a super slick, downhill 30-footer from using the flagstick to their advantage when missing the putt might mean the ball rolls off the green?”

Repairing damage to the green
The current rule only allows golfers to repair plug marks but the new proposed rule allows golfers to essentially repair any damage in the green, even spike marks (which aren’t generally a problem these days).

Touching the line of play on the putting green
Currently you aren’t allowed to touch any part of the green which may be considered the line of play (2-stroke penalty or loss of holes). However the new rules would allow for players are caddies touch the green; to show the target line for example, just as long as it doesn’t improve the conditions.

Accidentally moving ball or ball marker
The new rules will be more forgiving if you accidentally move your golf ball or ball marker while on the putting green. Currently it’s a 1-stroke penalty but the new rules would do away with the penalty and simply require the golfer to replace the ball or ball marker back to its original position.

Replacing ball that moves on the green
This method of replacing the ball to its original position if it moves will also apply under the proposed new rules if it’s been lifted (marked) and replaced before it moved. However if the ball moves because of natural forces (eg wind, water) before it has been marked and then replaced the ball will need to be played from its new position.

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