USGA Rule Change

Golfers will no longer be penalized if their ball moves after it has been addressed in one of a number of rule changes announced Monday by the sport's governing body.

The revision was made by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, which issues the sport's rules in conjunction with the USGA, the governing golf organization in the United States and Mexico.

Beginning Jan. 1 and until 2015, players will not be punished if the ball moves after the address "when it is known or virtually certain that he did not cause the ball to move."

Other changes announced by the R&A include allowing players to smooth sand or soil before playing from a hazard "provided it is for the sole purpose of caring for the course and Rule 13-2 (improving lie, area of intended stance or swing or line of play) is not breached."

Golfers will also no longer be automatically disqualified from a tournament if they start late, but within five minutes of their assigned tee time. Instead, they will lose the first hole in match play or two shots at the first hole in stroke play.

In addition, the R&A has amended the definition of addressing the ball to mean "simply ... grounding his club immediately in front of or behind the ball, regardless of whether or not he has taken his stance."

Before, the address position required a player to be stood over the ball with the club grounded.

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