In 2019, the USGA and R&A updated and modernized the Rules of Golf with the biggest overhaul seen in decades. The changes came in the form of a complete reorganization of the book in an effort to make the Rules easier to understand and apply. The governing bodies are now back to their normal cycle of making changes every four years. January 1, 2023 marks the first change to the Rules since the 2019 release. While most of the changes might seem minor to the recreational player, there are some key changes all golfers should know.
In 2023, there continues to be a push by the governing bodies to make the Rules more player friendly. One of the ways they accomplish this is through penalty reduction for certain breaches. One example is that the penalty for playing an incorrectly substituted a ball in the General Area has been reduced to one stroke rather than two strokes. The language in Rule 1.3c(4) Applying Penalties to Multiple Breaches of the Rules, has also been rewritten for clarity which will likely result in fewer cases where multiple penalties would be applied to a player.
Another player friendly change is in Rule 3.3b Scoring in Stroke Play. Players are not responsible for showing their handicap on the scorecard for a stroke play competition. If the player returns a scorecard and they have made a mistake on showing an improper handicap or calculating their net score, there is no penalty. The responsibility to get this correct belongs to the committee in charge of the competition. The Committee also has the ability to add a Local Rule to modify the penalty when a player or marker fails to certify (sign) the scorecard. With this Local Rule in effect, the penalty would be reduced from a disqualification to the General Penalty (two strokes).
A third example of the Rules being more player friendly is a change to what is allowed if you damage a club during play. Rule 4.1a(2) states that if a conforming club is damaged during a round or while play is stopped during a suspension, except in cases of abuse, the player may repair it or replace it. The rule goes on to say that the damage club is also still considered conforming, which means that you would be permitted to continue to use it for the remainder of the round. While this may seem like it is mostly helpful at the highest level of play, it is still overall a continued trend towards a more player friendly set of rules.
For more information and helpful videos about the Rules of Golf please visit https://rules.usga.org/rules-education/.