As of Jan. 1, golfers should take extra care to identify their ball in a hazard. That’s because the penalty for hitting the wrong ball in a hazard (bunkers included) is two strokes or loss of hole in match play. Under the previous rule, you could hit a small bucket of wrong balls from a hazard and not be penalized.
The changes to rules 12-2 and 15-3 represent a significant revision to The Rules of Golf. Other changes in the 2008-09 edition include reduced penalties for carrying a non-conforming club (Rule 4-1) and for accidentally deflecting your or your partner’s ball (Rule 19-2).
The penalty for carrying, but not using, a non-conforming club is now two strokes per hole, with a maximum of four penalty strokes per round. Previously, it was a disqualification.
If you, your caddie or your equipment (or your playing partner, his caddie or equipment) accidentally deflect your or your partner’s ball, the penalty is one stroke in both match play and stroke play. It used to be the loss of hole in match play and two strokes in stroke play.
More changes of note: The term “reasonable evidence” has been replaced in many instances involving lost balls by the term “known or virtually certain” (See Rule 18-1, right). Also, you can accept any cash prize for making a hole-in-one and not lose your amateur status. R. K.
DEFINITIONS Advice clarified to include the exchange of information on distance.
RULE 1-2 Clarified to say that a player can be disqualified if his act of influencing the position or movement of the ball puts a player or his partner at a significant advantage or another player. other than his partner. at a significant disadvantage.
RULE 12-1 if you accidentally move a ball while searching for it in an obstruction (typically artificial objects such as cement cartpaths). there is no penalty.
RULE 13-4 AND 13-4a If you hit a shot in a bunker and it stays in the bunker or flies into another bunker. you can rake the spot where you just hit from. provided you aren’t doing so to improve your new lie in the bunker or test the surface.
RULE 14-3 There is no penalty for using unusual equipment if it helps overcome a medical condition. provided the committee is satisfied it doesn’t give the player an unfair advantage. It’s also permissible to have a Local Rule allowing for measuring devices such as laser range finders.
RULE 15-2 If you’ve already been penalized for playing a shot from the wrong place. you can’t be penalized a second time for playing an incorrectly substituted ball.
RULE 16-1e There is no penalty if you inadvertently stand astride or on the line of a putt or an extension of that line. Furthermore. there is no penalty if you stand on or astride the line to avoid another player’s putting line.
RULE 18-1 You have to be at least “virtually certain” an outside agency such as an animal or another golfer has moved your ball before you can apply this rule.
RULE 20-3a If the wrong person places or replaces your ball. it’s just a one-stroke penalty.
RULE 24-1 Whether it’s attended or lying on the ground. you can now move a flagstick when a ball is in motion.
For the complete list, go to usga.org