McIlroy and Woods welcome 'common-sense' rule changes
Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods led the praise for golf's proposed radical rules overhaul, with the former expressing his belief that the "revolutionary" modernisation and simplification could stop people turning away from the game.
The sweeping changes announced by R&A and the US Golf Association - labelled "the biggest in a generation" by David Rickman, the R&A director of rules - have been almost five years in the making.
The governing bodies' mission was to make the rule book simpler and fairer, by removing some of the pettiness. The number of rules will be reduced from 34 to 24 and they will be written in more straightforward prose.
Among the proposals - which will undergo a six-month public consultation before being approved next year and coming into effect from January 1, 2019 - are allowing players to repair spike-marks on greens and reducing the permitted time for the search for a lost ball from five minutes to three, a move, which among others, the authorities hope will help tackle slow play.
The revelations did not come as a shock to the professionals, as the R&A and USGA had hosted briefings on both the European and PGA Tours this year.
Mike Davis, the executive director of the USGA, took McIlroy to lunch last week to explain the plans, proving how much they wanted the heavyweights on side. They need not have been concerned.
"I think it's great and I told Mike that," McIlroy said. "What's happened over the last couple of years with some rulings and high-profile things at crucial stages in tournaments, people look at that who might want to get into the game and are like, 'You know the rules are too complicated, I don't want to get into all of that'.
"Making them more modern to move with the times is good."
Woods concurred, tweeting that it was "great work to benefit the game".
Biggest rule changes in A generation
- Reduce time allowed to search for a lost ball from five to three minutes.
- Remove any penalty for accidentally moving ball.
- Allow club committees to set a maximum score for a hole (such as double par or triple bogey) to allow a player to pick up and move to the next hole.
- Relax protocols for taking free or penalty drops, with the ball dropped from only an inch above the ground, rather than shoulder height.
- Recommend no player takes more than 40 seconds to hit a shot.
- Use fixed distances (20 or 80 inches) rather than club lengths to measure areas where a ball should be dropped.
- Allow putting on the green with the flagstick left in the hole.
- Allow players to repair spike marks and animal damage on greens.