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New Year means new rules for golfers worldwide

The start of 2016 also marks the implementation of some significant changes to the rules of golf.

THE ban on anchoring will get all the attention when the updated Rules of Golf come into effect today but there are other changes, some of which will likely have a bigger impact on club golfers, as well.

In all, five rules will be changed but the one likely to have the biggest impact for Australia's club golfers relates to distance measuring devices.

Previously, if a device had distance measuring capabilities, but also included other functions not allowed under the rules, it was against the rules to use it.

However, in an age of smartphones and devices capable of multiple functions it has been decided this rule will be changed to allow the device to be used as long as none of the outlawed functions are used.

With many golfers now in the habit of using distance measuring devices the change will be a weclome one among the core of players who tee up in weekly competitions.

There are some other sensible adjustments which came into effect at midnight including a change to the rule governing a ball which moves after address.

Previously, Rule 18-2b penalised the golfer if his or her ball moved after they had taken their address position, including the grounding of the club, regardless of circumstances.

Whether the wind moved the ball or the player accidentally nudged it with their club, the player was deemed to have caused the ball to move and thus penalised.

From today, that situation will be reversed and the player will only incur a one stroke penalty if the facts show that his or her actions have caused the ball to move.

Most golfers will see this as a sensible fix for a rule that never really seemed fair, especially when strong wind was clearly the culprit as happened several times in televised tournaments.

The final changes to come into effect today will probably have less effect on club golfers but are still important to know.

The first relates to 'artificial devices', such as training aids, used during the course of competition.

Previosuly, any use of such a device was cause for immediate disqualification but under the amended rule the golfer is now penalised two strokes (or loss of hole in matchplay) for the first breach and disqualification after that.

The final change is more likely to be in play for professionals at televised tournaments and relates to the sigining of the scorecard.

Previously, if a player signed for any score on a hole lower than the actual score taken, regardless of circumstance, they were disqualified.

However, with the advent of high definition television and the increased coverage of the game the rule has now been amended to allow for a golfer who may be unaware they have breached a rule.

If a TV viewer were to witness something they later reported to tournament officials, but it was information the player would not reasonably be expected to know, the player will no longer be automatically disqualified.

Instead, the player will be required to add the penlaty strokes they should have incurred, plus a further two strokes for signing the incorrect scorecard, but be allowed to continue in the competition. 

THE R&A EXPLAIN THE NEW RULES OF GOLF:

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