What do the new changes to the rules of golf mean for the game?

Golf is an inherently simple sport: Hit the ball, see if it goes in the hole. If it doesn’t, repeat until it does. It also comes packaged with a Byzantine set of rules, many of which seem designed to punish you for doing nothing wrong. Now, two of the more insane penalties-namely the player being penalized a stroke for accidentally touching the sand in a sand trap or having the ball fall off of a tee while the player is addressing it-are being lifted. The New York Times reports:

The R&A, along with the United States Golf Association, which administers the game in this country, amended nine principal regulations from the Rules of Golf, the bible of the game. No longer will a player be penalized a stroke if the wind moves his ball while his club is near it. And if he or she smoothes the sand before playing a shot from a bunker, and in doing so does not gain an advantage, well, that’s O.K., too.

For serious golfers, the changes may as well have come inscribed on a pair of tablets delivered from a mountaintop. They will affect everyone, from tour professionals competing for millions to municipal golfers with a $2 bet on the line. The game’s officials insist the changes – at least one 267 years in the making – were not influenced by recent events, but it probably did not hurt that in recent years a few professionals lost lots of money and a chance at a title or two after violating these very rules.

Even though the changes are minor, they could have major ramifications. Empires-and, we suppose, games of golf-have been lost because of stuff like this. Sports!

-Drew Millard

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