Rules Column: Russ Wing

USGA along with the R&A are working on modernization deal

For the last five years, the USGA and the R&A have been working together on something called the Rules Modernization Project. The goals of this project are to make the Rules more consistent, simple and fair, and to make them more easily understood and applied by all golfers.

In early March, the two organizations published a progress report in the form of proposed changes to the Rules. While I had heard about the Rules Modernization Project for some time, I had always expected the changes to be relatively incremental, following the pattern of recent changes. But wow! These changes are far from incremental. And that’s a good thing.

Did they completely “blow up” the Rules and start from scratch? Well, no, they didn’t do that. But I think they did the next best thing. They changed both the Rules themselves and the way that they are written and presented, and both of those changes are for the better.

Accompanying this article is what the USGA and the R&A call an info graphic titled “Modernizing Golf’s Rules: Key Changes”. This info graphic describes “five of the most significant changes” to the Rules, and it also serves as an example of the new approach to presentation using pictures and illustrations to make the Rules easier to understand. This new approach to presentation reminds me a lot of a current USGA publication called Golf Rules Illustrated, my favorite Rules book.

In addition to changing the Rules and the way they are presented, they also are changing the Rules publications. The new Rules of Golf will contain 24 Rules vs. the current 34 Rules. There will be a Player’s Edition of the Rules that will be a complete set of Rules vs. a “Quick Guide” like the one in the current Rules book. There will be a separate Committee Procedures book, removing this information from the Rules book. And replacing the Decisions book will be a Handbook that will offer guidance to Rules Officials in lieu of the current roughly 1,200 Q&A format decisions.

Overall, I really like what I see with all of these proposed changes. I wish we could implement them right away. But we can’t. The current planned implementation date is January 1, 2019. Between now and August 31st, there is an open comment period. Please visit the USGA web site and check it out.