Every four years the USGA and R&A publish a new Rules of Golf book, and this upcoming January 1st marks the day that the new Rules take effect.
While there have been several minor changes, the USGA tells us that there are four major ones for 2016:
1) There is now a limited exception to the disqualification penalty for submitting an incorrect scorecard.
2) There’s a prohibition on anchoring the club while making a stroke (particularly relevant to long-putter users)
3) They’ve entirely withdrawn the previous Rule regarding the ball moving after address being automatically presumed to be the player’s fault
4) There’s a modification of the penalty for a single use of an illegal device
While there are certainly many more changes, and loads of details, the USGA has simplified the above four major changes in an “Infographic” which can be accessed via this link on their website:
One other change that I suspect many of you may care about is the fact that they’ve liberalized the wording of the Local Rule which if adopted (as we have) permits distance measuring devices. At this moment, if your distance measuring device also has illegal functions built into it (slope or wind speed for instance) you are disqualified even if you didn’t access the illegal functions. This was particularly problematic and confusing when using a smart phone as a distance measuring device, as so many smart phones have “illegal-for-golf functions” built into them. Come January, if a distance measuring device is allowed on a course or in a competition via the Local Rule, you are now permitted to use a distance measuring device that has illegal functions built in — as long as you don’t access those illegal functions when using it. Back to the honor system, simple and easy to understand. (The specific wording of this change can be found in Decision 14-3/0.5.)
Of course, there’s lots more for people who care to review everything. Go to USGA.org and you’ll find many videos and topic-by-topic analyses of all the 2016 changes.