The Unites States Golf Association (USGA) and Royal & Ancient (R&A) are currently making changes to the rules of golf to make the game more equitable, uniform, and hopefully more enjoyable.
Some changes have already been implemented. Just ask Jon Rahm, a professional golfer from Spain. At the 2017 Irish Open he did not properly replace his ball, while on the putting green of the sixth hole, yet he did not receive a penalty.
Rahm had marked his ball to the side, as is common practice since his opponent was further away from the hole and on the same line. Muscle memory kicked in after that and Rahm replaced the ball in front of the marker, rather than the side, as he’s done thousands of times.
Such a rules infraction would normally result in a four-stroke penalty. Two strokes for playing a ball from the wrong place, plus an additional two-stroke penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. These penalty strokes would have cost Rahm the win and moved him well down the leaderboard.
Due to a recently enacted rule change, by the USGA and the R&A, the issue was reviewed thoroughly by the rules committee. The decision was made that Rahm’s error was not malicious or intentional, but accidental. He continued play without additional penalty strokes being assessed and went on to win the Irish Open.
This rule adjustment also decreases importance of video review and allows for ‘intent’ and player explanations to play a stronger role in determining if there was a breach of rules.
Those that follow the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) will remember, just a few months prior, Lexi Thompson was not so lucky with a rules violation decision. Her incorrect replacement of a marked ball, in a nearly identical situation, cost her a major win at the ANA Inspiration, as well as, a very large winner’s check.
Lightning does strike twice in the same place as, a month later at The Open Championship, Rahm was assessed a penalty for a perceived rules violation. The penalty was later overturned after further review, once again, the alleged penalty proved to be an honest error, that did not improve his play.
What’s this mean for you?
Small errors won’t put you in trouble with your golf buddies or the head pro, as long as your actions were with the intent to follow the rules and you didn’t benefit from this error.
Knowing the rules, even if you are not on the tour, is important in golf. The rules create an equitable playing environment, as well as, set the boundaries for all to follow. Learning the rules can be difficult yet if you desire some increased education but want to do so in a humorous method check out The Golf Rules series. These lighthearted books educate as well as entertain.