Principal Changes - Code One

Abnormal Ground Conditions

The Definition is amended to deem a hole made by any animal (whether a 'burrowing animal' or not) to be an abnormal ground condition. Previously the Rules did not grant automatic relief from a hole made by a non-burrowing animal (e.g., a dog) - why not? Why should a hole made by a gopher be treated differently from a hole made by a cat?

Burrowing Animal

The Definition is withdrawn as it is no longer needed due to revision of Definition of "Abnormal Ground Conditions."


Added Note 1 to authorize the Committee to clarify the status of areas that are similar to bunkers by allowing the Committee to deem (and/or mark) such areas as bunkers or as through the green. Added Note 2 to specify that a bunker that is deemed or marked as ground under repair loses its status as a hazard (formerly in Decision 25/13). This change was clearly inspired by the situation at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island with the 2012 PGA Championship, and there would now be authority in the Rules for what the PGA of America did. With a bunker that is ground under repair, where possible and reasonable, it is better for information to be in the Rules than in the Decisions, given that several million copies of the Rules book are in print, compared to 50,000 copied of the Decisions book.


Added Definition to help in simplifying Rule 2-3 and to clarify the requirements of a proper claim i.e., one that the Committee must rule on. The procedure for making a claim in match play causes much confusion, and by moving the requirements for a proper claim into this new Definition, the Rule itself becomes simpler and, hopefully, easier to understand and apply.

Environment of the Ball

Added Definition for use of rules that limit the player to playing the course as he finds it i.e., without making prohibited improvements to the Environment of the Ball. This Definition is added solely for economy of words - four words to stand in for 42 words.

Lateral Water Hazard

Removed the Definition of "Lateral Water Hazard" as the Rules no longer recognize different types of water hazards.


Specified that the tee-markers of the player's teeing ground are immovable obstructions during play of the hole. There has been too much confusion over the status of tee-markers and at what point they become movable obstructions. As it is so rare for a tee-marker to interfere with a ball in play, we thought it would be simpler to treat them as immovable obstructions during the entire play of that hole. The tee-markers for the other teeing grounds (e.g., the white tee-markers for someone playing from the blue tee-markers) are movable obstructions during play of the hole.


Clarified the Definition regarding the status of aborted strokes (information previously contained in Decision 14/1.5).

Rule 2 — Match Play

Eliminated 'Halved Hole' Rule (formerly Rule 2-2) regarding a penalty incurred by a player in the match after he has holed out as this Rule has caused confusion and addressed a rare situation.

Rule 4 — Clubs

Required use of a driving club listed on the List of Conforming Driver Heads (formerly an optional condition of competition) to simplify the question of whether a player may use a certain driver. Allowed player to specify, before starting his round, that certain clubs in his possession are not part of his selected 14 clubs (reversing Decision 4-4c/1, perhaps the least popular Decision). Eliminated authority to repair or replace a club damaged in the normal course of play as rights under this Rule lead to confusion (and the player does have as many as 13 other clubs to use). While a player may be disadvantaged by the loss of the use of one of his clubs, the simplification of the rule is warranted. If a player faces a shot from an awkward spot (e.g., against a tree root), he should consider that he might lose the use of that club for the rest of the round.

Rule 5 — Balls

Required use of a ball on the List of Conform Golf Balls list (formerly an optional condition of competition) to simplify the question of whether a player may use a certain ball. Moved (and expanded) authority to clean a ball into this Rule (eliminating former Rule 21). For simplicity, a ball may be cleaned at all times when lifted (including a ball lifted for identification or lifted due to being in a position to assist or interfere with play). Removed authority to substitute for a ball that is damaged during play of the current hole as, given the high quality of today's golf balls, that situation is rare and the Rule addressing it was lengthy.

Rule 6 — The Player

Tightened the requirement on the player for declaring (in match play) or recording (in stroke play) his correct handicap. The player is no longer excused from penalty for declaring or recording a higher handicap than that to which he is entitled when the number of strokes received is unaffected (an extremely rare result that only clouded the main message of these Rules).

Rule 7 — Practice

Eliminated the differing treatment (match play vs. stroke play) regarding practice before the round in order to eliminate a prominent difference between the two forms of play. Eliminated authority for the player to make certain types of practice strokes during the round. The question as to where a player may practice and what type of strokes he may make has caused confusion. Also, why allow the player to practice some types of shots (chips and putts) but not other types of shots (e.g., full shots and bunker shots)?

Rule 8 — Advice; Indicating Line of Play

Amended to allow touching the putting green (without improving the line of putt) when indicating an aiming point. If the line is not improved, what's the harm in allowing it to be touched?

Rule 10 — Teeing Ground

Amended to state that tee-markers of the teeing ground to be used by the player are immovable obstructions throughout play of the hole. In match play, playing from outside the teeing ground when starting the play of hole results in a loss of hole penalty. In match play, if a player plays from a wrong place (e.g., four club-lengths from his nearest point of relief from a cart path), he loses the hole; why should the result be different when he does not play from the teeing ground? This change eliminates another wrinkle between match play and stroke play.

Rule 11 — Striking the Ball

Clarified 'fairly struck' (with information currently contained in Decision 14-1/4). Amended to allow the use of distance-measuring equipment (without adoption of a Local Rule) provided that any features of that equipment capable of gauging or measuring other conditions that affect play are not used. There has been a tremendous amount of confusion regarding the use of a distance-measuring device (whether a laser range-finer, a GPS device or an app for a smartphone). By eliminating the need for a Local Rule and allowing the use of any device as long as the non-conforming feature is not actually used, the situation becomes much simpler.

Rule 13 — Ball Played as it Lies

Grouped Rules together relating to what the player may and may not do to the area affecting his play. Moved 'removal of loose impediments' (formerly Rule 23-1) authorization into this Rule and expanded it to allow for removal regardless of the part of the course on which the ball lies (including in hazards). Moved 'exerting influence on a ball in motion or altering physical conditions' (formerly Rule 1-2) into this Rule. Removed the universal restriction on touching the ground in a hazard in which the ball lies; however, players must not test such hazards by probing or by making practice swings that touch the ground. We felt that the prohibition against merely touching the ground in the hazard or water in a water hazard accomplished little other than frivolous penalties. The removal of the prohibitions against touching or moving loose impediments from the hazard in which the player's ball lies removes a complication from the Rules and as well as silly penalties (e.g., when a player removes a loose impediment in the hazard some distance from his ball). In this regard, loose impediments are now treated the same on all parts of the course.

Rule 15 — The Putting Green

Removed general restriction against touching the line of putt as the mere act of touching (without improving) the line of putt yields little if any benefit. Knowingly making a stroke from the putting green while another ball is in motion is a breach regardless of whether it was the player's turn to play.

Rule 16 — The Flagstick

Removed 'unauthorized attendance' portion of the Rule as 'exerting influence' Rule addresses the situation.

Rule 18 — Ball in Motion Deflected or Stopped

If a ball in motion after a stroke from the putting green is deflected or stopped by another ball at rest on the putting green, the general penalty is incurred in both forms of play. Previously there was no penalty in match play, a result that is understandable philosophically as there is no penalty in matchplay if two players agree to leave a ball in position to help one of them (as the owner of the ball nearer the hole has only himself to blame if his act assists his opponent); however, the fewer the differences between match play and stroke play, the easier the Rules are to learn and apply.

Rule 19 — Lifting and Placing; Playing from Wrong Place

Dropping is eliminated - the ball is placed always. A serious breach of playing from a wrong place results in disqualification with no opportunity to correct such a breach, just as there no opportunity to correct a serious breach of exerting influence on a ball. This change produces a more severe result, but it does simplify the Rule. Under the current Rule, there is confusion as to whether a player always needs to correct the error of playing from a wrong place. For example, in a 1995 Champions Tour event, Hale Irwin putted from in front of his fellow-competitor's nearby ball-marker; as no serious breach was involved, he should have added two penalty strokes for playing from a wrong place and holed out. Instead, mistakenly believing he needed to correct the error, Irwin lifted his ball, placed it in front of his original ball-marker, and putted, earning him two more penalty strokes for playing from a second wrong place.

Rule 21 — Obstructions and Abnormal Ground Conditions

Combined former Rules 24 and 25 into a single rule as the relief procedures for immovable obstructions and abnormal ground conditions are essentially the same. Eliminated 'intervention on the line of putt' interference as this rare situation does not merit the complexity necessary to spell out relief from it. Simplified relief for a ball in a bunker when complete relief is impossible.

Rule 22 — Embedded Ball; Aeration Holes; Seams of Cut Turf; Wrong Putting Green

Provided full-time relief for conditions that were covered by commonly adopted Local Rules. The R&A (British Open) is the only organization we know of that intentionally does not adopt the Local Rule for an embedded ball, and even then referees occasionally erroneously grant relief at the British Open. The Local Rules for seams of cut turf (sod seams) and aeration holes were moved from Appendix I as they address common situations encountered at most golf courses at some point during the season.

Rule 23 — Ball Lost or Out of Bounds; Provisional Ball

The right to play a provisional ball is authorized until the player's side begins to search for the original ball (rather than the current, and often misunderstood, 'goes forward to search'). Also, the announcement requirement is less strict.

Rule 24 — Water Hazards

Amended to be consistent with the removal of the Definition of "Lateral Water Hazard." Now all water hazards are treated the same, eliminating the need for the tired question of "What is the difference between red and yellow stakes?" The previous justification for the differences of ensuring that certain holes (e.g., the 12th at Augusta National and 17th at TPC-Sawgrass) is not strong enough to let the confusion continue. In addition, the option (currently for a lateral water hazard) of dropping a ball on the opposite margin of the hazard was eliminated as the need for such a relief option is so rare.

Rule 29 — Par and Stableford Competitions

Removed 'bogey' form of play as it is, in essence, the same format as par (match-play reckoning vs. a fixed-score 'opponent').

Rule 31 — Disputes and Decisions

Simplified the authority to apply a penalty of disqualification after the competition has closed. This change is much more severe than the current Rule, but it ensures that the same act receives the same treatment, regardless of whether the error is discovered five minutes or five days after the player returns his score card. Moved 'Equity' into this rule as application of equity is a Committee responsibility for resolving disputes and making decisions on matters not explicitly covered by the rules.

Appendix I

Removed redundancy by combining parts A & B into a single Appendix section. Deleted 'stones in bunkers' Local Rule as Rule 13-2 allows such removal. Deleted 'immovable obstruction close to putting green' Local Rule as allowing relief would be inconsistent with the removal of 'intervention interference' on the putting green from Rule 21-2. The Temporary Immovable Obstruction (TIO) specimen Local Rule is modified to specify that TIOs are a class of immovable obstructions and that Rule 21-2 applies for relief when physical interference, as described by that Rule, exists i.e., the Local Rule is used when the TIO solely intervenes. The one club-length intervention zone was also eliminated for TIOs.

Appendix IV

The section dealing with gauging and measuring conditions affecting play has been modified to reflect that distance-measuring devices are permitted (without the need for a Local Rule) and that such devices may contain other capabilities provided the player does not use those capabilities to gauge or measure conditions other than distance that may affect his play. This change treats distance-measuring devices the same way other items are that have non-conforming functions (e.g., a player may wear a watch that has a compass function on it as long as he does not use the compass function).