Every four years, the USGA and R&A meet to determine any changes to the Rules of Golf. Some of these changes are of little significance to the average golfer, while some are of great importance. Here are the changes for 2016: RULE 6-6d, WRONG SCORE FOR A HOLE Did you incur a penalty that you were unaware of in a tournament, but still turned in your scorecard? Prior to 2016, if this happened to you,you were disqualified. With this new Decision,under certain circumstances, the competitor is no longer disqualified. Do you remember a few years ago when Tiger Woods incorrectly dropped a ball while taking a stroke-and-distance penalty at the 15th hole at the Masters? Normally he would have been disqualified, but the committee ruled that they were aware of the situation before Woods turned in his scorecard and yet did nothing to inform him, so when his transgression came to light more clearly later that night, the committee waived the penalty of disqualification, as was its right. But, that’s a rare situation where the committee goofed. Now, such gray area has been eliminated. Today, Woods would be given an additional two-stroke penalty and be allowed to continue. Note that this new Decision does not excuse ignorance of the Rules, just certain situations. RULE 14-3, ARTIFICIAL DEVICES AND UNUSUAL EQUIPMENT; ABNORMAL USE OF EQUIPMENT Several years ago, Juli Inkster used a golf donut on her driver to make some practice swings during a delay in the action. That resulted in automatic disqualification. Today, that action results in a two-stroke penalty. However, the two-stroke penalty only applies to the first violation. Say you use the donut on the 13th hole only. No disqualification, just a two-stroke penalty. Say you also use it again on the 18th hole. Now the penalty is disqualification. This new Decision also permits the use of laser rangefinders that measure for slope, etc., if the environmental factors in the device are deactivated. Previously, such devices were banned for tournament play and for handicapping purposes entirely, even if they were equipped with a means to deactivate the slope and environmental functions. RULE 18-2, BALL AT REST MOVED BYPLAYER, PARTNER, CADDIE,OR EQUIPMENT This clarifi es the Rule. In the Zurich Classic inNew Orleans in 2011, Webb Simpson’s ball movedon the putting green as a result of high winds afterhe addressed it. The Rules back then allowed for no leeway – Simpson was docked a penalty strokeand had to replace his ball. After that incident,the Rule was altered somewhat in 2012, but stillwas weighted heavily against the player. Now, thepreponderance of the evidence must be against theplayer in order for a penalty stroke to be applied. RULE 14-1B, ANCHORED STROKE We saved the most controversial and well-known Rules change for last. Beginning on January 1, 2016,any anchored stroke is prohibited. This includes placing a part of the club on a fixed point of your body that is not the arms or hands, such as using a belly putting stroke. That’s now prohibited. Also,anchoring your hands or forearms against your body is now prohibited. The penalty for making such a stroke is loss of hole in match play and two strokes in stroke play. When this Rules change was proposed, various entities came out against it. But as with most things in golf, it became accepted and various pros who used anchored putting methods, such as Tim Clarke and Bernhard Langer, adapted with other means. CHANGES TO USGA HANDICAPPING SYSTEM The biggest change to the USGA Handicapping System for 2016 is that scores played as a single will no longer be allowed to count. The USGA’s reasoning behind this is that peer review is at the heart of the system, and rounds played alone do not have that aspect. However, Golf Canada, the governing body in that country, has rejected this change and will still allow scores to be posted by single players. Whether most players in the U.S. will be aware of this change remains to be seen, but there are already many courses and players ignoring the mandate. Other changes include the definition of a tournament score, adjusting hole scores, posting a score when a player is disqualified, posting a score while using an anchored stroke, and committee responsibilities. All of these are somewhat administrative changes and will not generally affect the everyday player.