The USGA and R & A announced last week the publication of new unified rules for 2012 to 2015. This is a result of an exhaustive four year process and review and modification of the 34 playing rules of golf by the two organizations.
Besides a couple of rules changes this is the first time there will be one uniform set of rules world wide-the only difference will be the language in which they are written. You might want to bone up on your Scottish.
Of the rules changes there are really only three that will likely affect you.
First, they changed the rule involving a ball moving once a player has addressed it. They added a key exception exonerating a player from penalty if their ball moves after address when it is known or virtually certain that the player did not cause the ball to move. Most obvious example we have seen is a wind gust moving the ball after address. The change in the rule is that the player does not have to take a penalty and return the ball to it’s original position. Now they simply wait until the ball stops moving and play it from the new location with no penalty. This should speed up play since many times players take extra time to be cautious when putting their ball on a windy day.
Second, if a ball is in a hazard (bunker, water hazard, etc) a player can now smooth sand or soil at any time in the hazard, including before playing from the hazard, provided it is for the sole purpose of caring for the course. They cannot do this if it will improve their lie, area of intended stance, or swing/line of play. This change should facilitate players raking other areas of the bunkers while waiting for their turn to play.
Third, a person is now deemed to have addressed their ball if they put their club in front or behind their ball, regardless of whether they have taken a stance. Since players have widely variant address processes this makes the determination of address more consistent.
They also exempted hole-in-one prizes from the stipulated prize limits for amateurs. This will make all those charitable organizations who have outings happy. Take dead aim!!