This year we see the introduction of some new and amended rules of golf. The rules of golf often read in a complicated way and cause much confusion however once you learn how to use the rules book it is straightforward in most cases to find the appropriate decision. I always carry a rules book in my bag and it is something most golfers should do. One thing I have learned over the years is that a persons perception of what is equitable is rarely the right advice to take, pick up a rule book and learn how to use it.
There are a few good changes as I see it, accidentally moving your ball whilst looking for it no longer carries a penalty. Spike marks and other shoe damage can be repaired, this one is particularly good as a golfer should not be penalized for playing later in the day I feel. A ball accidentally moved on the putting green may also now be replaced without penalty. Again, another common sense change.
There are also a few rules which I am not so sure about and I appreciate there is documentation you can look at which outlines all the reasons why but dropping from knee instead of shoulder high, I am not sure why that needs a change. It is a lot easier to ascertain if the arm is parallel to the ground I would have thought? You cant take relief from a penalty area unless you are 95% certain that the ball is in the penalty area. Again I liked the rule that you must see it go in and your playing partners must agree. For me it rules out the unknown but, in the case of a blind shot where you cannot see the penalty area it may be a greater degree of fairness so I would probably concede that this is a positive change.
Some of the rules around time to look for your ball, now 3 minutes instead of 5 is a good thing I feel. Slow play is hurting golf and this is a step to address that in some way. You cannot have anyone standing directly behind you once you begin taking your stance to assist with alignment, again I agree with this. Good alignment is a skill and there is a technique to it. I am surprised that they have taken so long to address this. It is unlikely that it will be welcomed on the ladies tour where we see caddies lining up players on a regular basis but it will be better for the game long term.
Over all I think the changes are good. It is good that the governing bodies are doing something to assist with improving slow play. We all know what it is like when we play 18 holes stopping and starting and how frustrating it can be. A rhythm of pace is a part of playing well and it makes it very difficult to find your best golf when you cant get in to a flowing pace on the course.
If three scratch players are playing behind three 18 handicap golfers then it is inevitable that they will be held up. Throw in 4 balls, in singles format with a whole mixture of handicaps and it is almost impossible to avoid slow play but it is in every golfers best interest to keep play moving, firstly for their own game and secondly for the benefit of everyone else on the course.
Playing better means less shots and a quicker round so don't forget that working on your game and getting better helps as well!