(Note: The following was originally published by the author on Waggleroom.com) Beginning January 1st and until the year 2015, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club has decreed that players will no longer be penalized a stroke if your ball is moved by the wind after address. In addition, tournament players will now have a five-minute grace period for missing their starting tee time. The R&A issues the sport's rules in conjunction with the USGA, which oversees the game for North America and Mexico.
What does this mean for professional golfers like Webb Simpson and Rory McIlroy - two players who have been penalized for having windy balls during a tournament this past season? They can finally address their putts free of worry. No more one-shot penalities for those players.
Jim Furyk ought to be pleased with the R&A's change-of-heart regarding poor morning alarm-setting skills. Of course, his situation really didn't cause him too much pain, since... you know, he ended up winning the FedEx Cup last year.
What does this mean for amateur hacks like you and I? Heck, we probably didn't even know such a rule existed; and if we did, I admit I have never followed it during a windy round of golf. And I the worst thing that has ever happened to me for missing a tee-time was having to wait longer to get off the tee. Nevertheless, a few questions come to mind regarding these new rule changes.
According to one tweet I read this morning, does this new wind rule mean that if I hit a tee shot on a par 3 to three inches, address my putt, but the wind then blows the ball into the hole, is that now considered a hole-in-one? What about if my ball is lying on the side of a hill and the wind then blows the ball, causing it to roll into a nearby lake? Am I penalized a stroke for the water hazard?
Also of note: the definition of "addressing the ball" has also been revised. A player will now be deemed to have addressed his ball by "simply ... grounding his club immediately in front of or behind the ball, regardless of whether or not he has taken his stance."