Rickie Fowler "rule" altered as R&A, USGA announce FIVE changes for 2023

The R&A and USGA have announced changes to the Rules of Golf that will take effect from 1 January 2023. Here is everything you need to know.

Ben Smith's picture
Mon, 7 Nov 2022
Rickie Fowler "rule" altered as R&A, USGA announce FIVE changes for 2023

The R&A and USGA have announced changes to the Rules of Golf that will take effect starting on 1 January 2023. 

The two golf governing bodies confirmed the changes on 7 November and in total there are five alterations that have been introduced to "help golfers at all levels of play." 

In a statement, the two organisations that maintain the Rules of Golf said the 2023 changes, "Continues the modernisation process, with an emphasis on both inclusion and sustainability." 

The last changes came in 2019 with such things introduced like being able to take drops from knee height, the relaxation of putting green rules and improvement to pace of play by reducing the time allowed to search for a lost golf ball. 

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The changes include:

  • Modifications for players with disabilities
  • Handicap usage in stroke play
  • Clubs being damaged during round
  • Ball moved by natural forces
  • Back-on-the-line relief procedure

Related: Did you know this golf rule Keegan Bradley took advantage of?

A closer look:

  • Modifications for players with disabilities: The modifications to the Rules for players with disabilities have been made part of the Rules and are in effect for all players who are classified in the categories covered in Rule 25.
  • Handicap usage in stroke play: With the continued growth of score-posting technology following the adoption of the World Handicap System, players are no longer penalised for failing to put their handicap on their scorecard in stroke play. The committee will be responsible for ensuring the accuracy of each player's handicap.
  • Club damaged during round: The Rule has been amended to allow a player to replace a club that is damaged during a round, provided the player did not damage it through abuse.
  • Ball moved by natural forces: A new exception provides that a ball at rest must be replaced if it moves to another area of the course or comes to rest out of bounds after being dropped, placed or replaced.
  • Back-on-the-line relief procedure: The back-on-the-line relief procedure, often used for penalty area and unplayable ball relief, has been simplified so that the player now drops their ball on the line, and the ball must come to rest within one club-length of where it is dropped.

Related: Rory McIlroy's understanding of the rules saved K.H. Lee

Grant Moir, director of Rules at The R&A, said: 

"We are continuing to improve and adapt the Rules of Golf to ensure they are in line with the way the modern game is played. That means making the Rules easier to understand and access for all golfers and making the sport more inclusive and welcoming for golfers with disabilities. We are also working to ensure golf has a sustainable long-term future and making more resources available digitally is key to achieving that goal." 

There are quite a few talking points that we are sure will ruffle some feathers. 

Perhaps most interestingly is what is being referred to as the Rickie Fowler rule. The American had issues during the 2019 WM Phoenix Open when he carded a triple-bogey seven at the 11th hole at TPC Scottsdale. 

Remember this?

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The new change provides:

"That a ball at rest must be replaced if it moves to another area of the course or comes to rest out of bounds after being dropped, placed or replaced." 

That penalty just never felt right. 

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