New Golf Rules For 2016


Every golfer knows that there are a wide variety of rules and regulations to keep in mind when hitting the links. How well do we actually know the ins and outs of each rule, though? While professionals and amateurs are sure to be very well-versed in the United States Golf Association (USGA) rules, casual or recreational players are less likely to have extensive knowledge of these guidelines.

There are 34 specific USGA rules, and each one of these is broken down into a number of sub-sections. A few examples of these rules include:

  • “Match Play”
  • “The Ball”
  • “Practice”
  • “Striking the Ball”
  • “The Flagstick”

The 11 larger categories that contain each of the 34 rules are:

  1. “The Game”
  2. “Clubs and the Ball”
  3. “Player’s Responsibilities”
  4. “Order of Play”
  5. “Teeing Ground”
  6. “Playing the Ball”
  7. “The Putting Green”
  8. “Ball Moved, Deflected, or Stopped”
  9. “Relief Situations and Procedures”
  10. “Other Forms of Play”
  11. “Administration”


Additionally, USGA rules include sections on etiquette, definitions, and four different appendices that discuss local rules, clubs, balls, and other devices/equipment.

If you would like to take a closer look at the official USGA rules and learn a bit more about the fascinating intracicies of the game, visit the following link.

Additionally, to further educate yourself on the USGA handicap index, click here. If you are looking for an easy tool to calculate your handicap, we recommend’s Golf Handicap Calculator

While the existing rules are obviously extremely important, the team has endeavored to research new USGA rules and rule changes that be implemented in 2016. Additionally, we will address alterations and additions to the handicap index as of 2016. In this blog post, we will provide a bit more information on each of the new or altered rules in order to help players understand how these regulations will affect their golfing experience. We have also created an infographic that breaks down each of the main rule addition or addendums in easy-to-understand language.

New and Altered Rules for 2016

Rule 6 (“The Player”) – 6 (“Scoring in Stroke Play”) d (“Wrong Score for Hole”)

Existing Rule: Rule 6-6d stipulates the following: “The competitor is responsible for the correctness of the score recorded for each hole on his scorecard. If he returns a score for any hole lower than actually taken, he is disqualified. If he returns a score for any hole higher than actually taken, the score is recorded as stands.

Note 1: The Committee is responsible for the addition of scores and application of the handicap recorded on the scorecard – see Rule 33-5.

Note 2: In four-ball stroke play, see also Rules 31-3 and 31-7a.”

New Rule: According to the updated rule, if a player did not realize that he or she incurred a penalty, they will receive the existing penalty and add an additional two-stroke penalty to their scorecard prior to returning it.

Rule 14 (“Striking the Ball”) – 1 (“Ball to be Fairly Struck At”)

Existing Rule: As it currently stands, Rule 14-1 requires that “the ball must be fairly struck with the head of the club and must not be pushed, scraped, or spooned.”

New Rule: Because the existing rule does not specifically address anchoring (when a player intentionally holds the club or gripping hand in contact with any part of their body other than their hand or forearm), a new sub-section will be added to Rule 14-1. This new sub-rule will be referred to as 14-1b, which stipulates that the use of anchoring strokes is strictly forbidden, and that any player who anchors their strokes will be assessed a two-stroke penalty.

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Rule 14 (“Striking the Ball”) – 3 (“Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment, and Unusual Use of Equipment”)

Existing Rule: Rule 14-3 states that “the USGA reserves the right, at any time, to change the Rules relating to artificial devices, unusual equipment, and the unusual use of equipment, and to make or change the interpretations relating to these Rules.

A player in doubt as to whether use of an item would constitute a breach of Rule 14-3 should consult the USGA.

A manufacturer should submit to the USGA a sample of an item to be manufactured for a ruling as to whether its use during a stipulated round would cause a player to be in breach of Rule 14-3. The sample becomes the property of the USGA for reference purposes. If a manufacturer fails to submit a sample or, having submitted a sample, fails to await a ruling before manufacturing and/or marketing the item, the manufacturer assumes the risk of a ruling that the item would be contrary to the Rules.

Except as provided in the Rules, during a stipulated round (playing all 18 holes in the correct order) the player must not use any artificial device or unusual equipment (see Appendix IV for detailed specifications and interpretations), or use any equipment in an unusual manner:

  1. That might assist him in making a stroke or in his play; or
  2. For the purpose of gauging or measuring distance or conditions that might affect his play; or
  3. That might assist him in gripping the club, except that:
    1. gloves may be worn provided that they are plain gloves;
    2. resin, powder, and drying or moisturizing agents may be used; and
    3. a towel or handkerchief may be wrapped around the grip.


  1. A player is not in breach of this Rule if (a) the equipment or device is designed for or has the effect of alleviating a medical condition, (b) the player has a legitimate medical reason to use the equipment or device, and the Committee is satisfied that its use does not give the player any undue advantage over other players.
  2. A player is not in breach of this Rule if he uses equipment in a traditionally accepted manner.

If a player breaches Rule 14-3, he or she will be disqualified. However, the Committee may make a Local Rules allowing players to use devices that measure or gauge distance only.”

New Rule: If a player does use any artificial devices, unusual equipment, or use equipment in an unusual manner, they will receive a two-stroke penalty for the first offense and disqualification upon the second offense.

Rule 18 (“Ball at Rest Moved”) – 2 (“By Player Partner, Caddie, or Equipment”) b (“Ball Moving After Address”)

Existing Rule: Rule 18-2b addresses the movement of a player’s ball after he has addressed it. In this context, “address” refers to the point where a golfer is in position and ready to play a stroke. According to the existing rule, “if a player’s ball in play moves after he has addressed it (other than as a result of a stroke), the player is deemed to have moved the ball and incurs a penalty of one stroke. The ball must be replaced, unless the movement of the ball occurs after the player has begun the stroke or the backward movement of the club for the stroke and the stroke is made. Exception: If it is known or virtually certain that the player did not cause his ball to move, Rule 18-2b does not apply.”

New Rule: The amended rule, however, stipulates that anything happening outside of the player’s control will be an exception to the requirements of Rule 18-2b.

Changes to Handicap Index for 2016

Section 2 (“Definitions”)

Existing Rule: “At present, an ‘eligible tournament score’ is a “tournament score made either within the last 12 months or within the player’s current 20-score history.”

New Rule: According to the amended rule, “additional guidance [will be] provided to Committees conducting competitions regarding the definition of a tournament score, placing greater emphasis on ‘significant events.’ The definition excludes fundraising events and regular league play, in favor of designated competitions such as a member/guest or club championship, local amateur tournament, or national qualifying and competition.”

Section 5 (“Scores”) – 1 (“Acceptability of Scores”) e (“Unacceptable Scores”)

Existing Rule: According to the current rule, “scores made under the following conditions are not acceptable for handicap purposes and must not be entered into the player’s scoring record:

  1. When fewer than seven holes are played;
  2. When made on a golf course in an area in which an inactive season established by the authorized golf association is in effect;
  3. When the length of the course is less than 3,000 yards for 18 holes (or less than 1,500 yards for 9 holes);
  4. When, as a condition of the competition, the maximum number of clubs allowed is less than 14, or types of clubs are limited as, for example, in a competition that allows only iron clubs;
  5. When scores are made on a course with no USGA Course Rating or Slope Rating;
  6. When a player uses non-conforming clubs, non-conforming balls, or tees;
  7. With respect to Rule 14-3 (“Rules of Golf”), when an artificial device or piece of unusual equipment is used during the execution of a stroke or when equipment is used in an unusual manner during the execution of a stroke (See Decision 5-1e/3).”

New Rule: The altered rule states that players may no longer factor scores on games played alone into their handicap. If they do play alone, they must have a witness for seven out of nine hopes in a 9 hole game or 13 out of 18 holes in an 18 hole game. This new ruling has generated a good bit of controversy and dissent among players, which makes it particularly interesting and noteworthy. Additionally, a scorecard may be submitted after disqualification for handicap calculation, as long as they do not provide the player with an unfair advantage. Finally, a player who fails to apply the appropriate penalty for anchoring will be unable to submit their score or have it factored into their handicap.

Section 8 (“The Handicap Committee”) – 4 (“Penalty Scores, Handicap Index Adjustment, and Withdrawal”) c (“Handicap Index Adjustment by Handicap Committee”)

Existing Rule: The current rules regarding Section 8-4c state that “The Handicap Committee has the responsibility of making certain that each player has a Handicap Index reflecting potential ability. Under the following circumstances, it will be necessary for the Handicap Committee to adjust the player’s Handicap Index. However, the following list is not all-inclusive, and a Handicap Committee has the ultimate authority to adjust a Handicap Index under any circumstance that it feels necessary to do so. Before an adjustment becomes effective, the Handicap Committee must give the player an opportunity to explain the circumstances surrounding the proposed adjustment, either in writing or by appearing before the Committee. When an adjustment does become effective, it must be identified with the letter ‘M’, reflecting that the Handicap Committee has modified the Handicap Index (e.g. 4.9M).

Note: See Appendix B for a sample letter notifying a player of Handicap Index adjustment.”

New Rule: According to the new rule, “in an effort to assist the Handicap Committee with its responsibilities, this revision addresses a player with a temporary disability or permanent disability who has a Handicap Index that is no longer reflective of his/her current potential ability. In the particular instance cited, the Committee will no longer assign a local handicap (denoted with the letter ‘L’ for local use only), but instead will issue a (temporary) modified Handicap Index (denoted by the letter ‘M’). This change supports the portability of a disabled player’s handicap, so that it can be used outside the player’s home club.”


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