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Law changes 'would modernise golf'

By Robert Jones

The R&A and United States Golf Association have announced proposals to make significant changes to the rules of golf, including eliminating numerous penalties and banning caddies from lining up players.

The number of rules has been reduced from 34 to 24 in an effort to modernise and simplify regulations. Among the revisions under consideration are reducing the search time for lost balls from five minutes to three, allowing players to repair spike marks on greens and to drop a ball from any height when taking relief, rather than shoulder height.

David Rickman, the R&A's executive director of governance, said: "We are really about modernising the rules of golf and, in very simple terms, trying to make them easier to understand and apply.

"The concern was that, over time and despite our best efforts, the rules have grown in length and complexity and therefore have become confusing and intimidating."

Allowing players to repair spike marks is certain to be popular among professionals, as will removing the penalty for being struck by your ball if it rebounds back from an obstruction.

Removing the penalty for accidentally moving your ball marker on the green has come too late for Ian Poulter, who was penalised for such an incident in a play-off in Dubai in 2010, which contributed to him missing out on £352,000 in prize and bonus money.

Preventing caddies from helping players with alignment may not go down well on the LPGA Tour, where it is most prevalent, but Rickman added: "Even though it may be unpopular, a reinforcement of player skill and judgment was important."

Another area of potential conflict stems from allowing distance-measuring devices, except when prohibited by a local rule.

The R&A is encouraging feedback until the end of August, with any amendments to be made before the new rules come into effect from January 1, 2019.

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