Starting in 2019, the Rules of Golf, authored jointly by the United States Golf Association and the R&A, and used by millions of golfers worldwide, will look very different than it does now. Currently there are 34 rules, and the proposal is for a smaller and easier-to-understand book with 24. To do this, USGA and R&A officials want to consolidate many of rules sections. Officials also would like to take the rules related to the committee out of the book and put them in a separate “procedural” document. The proposal includes publishing a simpler version of the rules called the Players Handbook.
It will be a reference guide to the most common rules situations encountered during a round. It will be written in language more recognized by golfers around the globe, instead of the legalese found in the current book. And if you’re wondering what becomes of the voluminous Decisions on the Rules of Golf, it will now be known as The Handbook. “The guiding principle for everything we propose is that it should be easier to understand and put in play,” Bodenhamer says.
So what’s missing from the proposal? If you were hoping stroke-and-distance penalties for losing a ball or hitting it out-of-bounds were going away, the rules makers are not proposing changes. They could have treated an out-of-bounds situation the same as if you had hit into a lateral water hazard, so you wouldn’t have to return to the previous spot to play your next shot.
That being said, Bodenhamer says the decision to leave stroke-and-distance penalties in the book is not final. “We’re not decreeing it from on high. We’re really curious to hear what people think and offer as solutions for stroke-anddistance.”