Decisions on the Rules of Golf Changes

The USGA and the R&A have released the changes to the Decisions on the Rules of Golf for 2014-2015. The changes will take effect January 1, 2014.

These are not changes to the Rules of Golf; rather changes to the interpretations of the Rules. Every two years the two Rules making bodies amend the code by adding, revising or withdrawing Decisions. This is their chance to “fix” anything they think they may have overlooked, missed or address any changes that may have come up in the game of golf since the last Rules revision two years previous. The Rules of Golf themselves are set up on a four year rotation for revision.

For 2014-2015 there are only three new Decisions, 59 revisions to existing Decisions, one Decision re-numbered and 24 Decisions that have been withdrawn. Compare that to 2006 when we had 37 new and 66 revised with eight being withdrawn.

Here’s a brief recap on the new Decisions.

  • Decision 14-3/8 will allow a player to access weather information on a multi-functional device such as a smartphone without penalty. Previously, this could have led to disqualification. I think it’s a smart move as the horse is already out of the barn on this one.
  • New Decision 18/4 addresses whether or not a player may have been able to tell if his ball at rest has been moved or not. If the movement was so slight that the player could not have reasonably discerned that the ball had moved with his naked eye, there will be no penalty. Even if through the use of a television evidence or sophisticated technology, the ball is later shown to have moved ever so slightly, there will be no penalty. This is really a Decision for the tours and major championships that will have little impact on the majority of golfers.
  • Finally, Decision 18-2b/1 is really a clarification of an existing Decision; Decision 18-2b/11. This new Decision states that after having addressed the ball, if the ball thereafter moves, gravity is not considered a satisfactory reason to have caused the ball to move and the player will still be penalized one stroke. Hopefully in 2016, Rule 18-2b will go away altogether and we’ll be back to asking the player what caused the ball to move; you or something else, If it was you there is a penalty, if it was something else there is no penalty.

The revised Decisions include many with very small changes that have very little impact on the principle of the Decision rather they help clarify the Decision. However, some are a direct change in principle. For example, Decision 14-3/4 will allow the use of a compass beginning in 2014 whereas currently its use would result in disqualification.

Others now include what I call the “insanity defense” in that in match play, if the two opponents are not aware that they are agreeing to breach a Rule then there are not in breach of Rule 1-3; “Agreement to Waive Rules”.

Lastly, I really like the revision to Decision 27-2a/1.5. The Decision now allows a player to walk forward up to 50 yards before determining that it would be appropriate to return and play a provisional ball. Remember, a provisional ball is an “I’m going to play another ball from here just in case I can’t find my original that may be lost outside of a water hazard or out of bounds so that I don’t have to walk all the way back and waste time” ball. Previously, as soon as the player had gone forward to search, his right to play a provisional ball was denied and precious time was lost. Too many people get tripped up on trying to properly use the Provisional Ball Rule to save time and end up being penalized. Thumbs up on this one!

There are plenty more where that came from. For a complete text of the changes to the Decisions, paste this link into your browser.

The new edition of Decisions on the Rules of Golf should be available in early December by calling the USGA Order Department at (800) 336-4446 or through the USGA website at

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