London: Golf's rule makers rubber-stamped on Monday several changes to make the sport easier to understand and quicker to play, which will come into force next year. The R&A and United States Golf Association (USGA) have made some changes to the proposals which were put up for public consultation in 2017.
The alterations, such as allowing the flag to remain in the hole unattended while putting, come into force on January 1. Players will not incur a penalty for removing loose impediments from bunkers, while they will only be allowed three minutes and not five, as it was before, to look for a lost ball.
Golfers will be able to drop the ball from knee rather than shoulder height when taking relief after the rule-makers acknowledged feedback from a worldwide consultation which rejected a proposal to drop from any height. "Our previous proposal had a number of difficulties with it, particularly around how close certain players would get to the ground in certain circumstances," David Rickman, the R&A`s executive director of governance, told BBC Sport.
"Knee-height gave us that balance, gave us the ability to preserve the randomness of the drop. "But by being significantly lower than shoulder height and by allowing a player to get their eyes over the ball, they can be much more precise in terms of the dropping procedure."
The onus will be on the players to use `reasonable judgment` when estimating or measuring a spot, point, line, area or distance, with no retrospective penalties even if video evidence later shows it to be wrong.
The rule makers rejected proposals for drops to be made from a standard 20 or 80 inches and instead the golfer can select their longest club, but not their putter, for the measurement.
"We are pleased to be introducing the new Rules of Golf after a collaborative and wide-ranging review process which has embraced the views of golfers, rules experts, and administrators worldwide," said Rickman. "We believe that the new rules are more in tune with what golfers would like and are easier to understand and apply to everyone who enjoys playing this great game."