The United States Golf Association, in conjunction with the Royal & Ancient Rules Limited in St. Andrews, Scotland, writes, interprets and maintains the Rules of Golf to guard the tradition and integrity of the game. The two organizations are joint authors and owners of The Rules of Golf and Decisions on the Rules of Golf. Every four years, the USGA and R & A revise the Rules of Golf, while the Decisions on the Rules are revised every two years. On January 1, 2008, revisions for both the Rules of Golf and its Decisions will take effect. While all of the changes are important, we've highlighted a few of the changes that players are more likely to encounter. For a complete list of changes, please visit the USGA's Web site here.
Rule 4-1: Carrying a Non-Conforming Club
OLD: Prior to 2008, if a player carried a club during the round which was non-conforming, the player would be disqualified.
REVISED: Now the penalty for just carrying a non-conforming club has been softened and revised to reflect the similar penalty for carrying more than 14 clubs. Instead of disqualification, the penalty is now a loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play for each hole you carry the non-conforming club with a maximum of two holes deducted or four penalty strokes tacked on. However, if the player uses a non-conforming club to make a stroke, the player will be disqualified.
Rule 12-2: Identification of Golf Ball in Hazards (Bunkers and Water Hazards)
OLD: Prior to 2008, if a ball was in a bunker or water hazard and you could not identify it, usually due to the ball being covered by sand or mud, you were not allowed to lift that ball for identification. Players would not be penalized for playing a wrong ball from a hazard.
REVISED: Now a player will be able to lift his ball for identification anywhere on the course, including bunkers and water hazards. Along with that privilege comes the penalty for playing a wrong ball anywhere on the course (two strokes).
Rule 19-2: Hitting Yourself (Penalty Reduced)
OLD: Prior to 2008, if a player hit a ball and it deflected off a tree or lip of a bunker and came back to hit the player, the penalty would be two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play.
REVISED: Now the penalty for your own ball striking you, your partner, either of your caddies or any of your side's equipment will only be a one-stroke penalty in either stroke play or match play.
Rule 24-1: Moving a Flagstick (Movable Obstruction)
OLD: Prior to 2008, if a player hit a putt and the ball was rolling toward the flagstick that was laying on the green and another player moved the flagstick to prevent the ball from striking it, the person that moved the flagstick would be penalized two strokes.
REVISED: Now if a flagstick has been removed and is laying on the putting green when a player hits his putt too strong, another player may pick up the flagstick and let the player's ball roll by to wherever it was heading without incurring a penalty.