By Tim Kilty
As we begin the new year of 2010, the third year of the current Rules of Golf cycle is upon us. The rule book you currently have is dated January 1, 2008 and is effective until December 31, 2011. This would give one the impression that the Rules are fairly static, at least until the end of 2011. This is generally true; however a new Decisions Book on the Rules of Golf was just published, effective January 1, 2010. The Decisions are case studies to help us interpret the Rules, which can be somewhat confusing and not just black and white; as I am sure you can attest.
In a further attempt to adapt the rules to different situations and prevent them from being too ironclad, we have Rule 33, "The Committee", or more specific, Rule 33-8, Local Rules. This rule gives the Committee (whoever is responsible for the event) the right to establish Local Rules for abnormal conditions, as long as they are consistent with the rules of golf. For a Local rule to be in effect, it must be printed on an official document such as a "hard card" that is used by the NCAA, USGA and many state and regional golf associations, an official Conditions of the Competition, Notice to Players or on a score card. If it isn't written, it's not in effect.
Samples of Local rules that are very often in effect are: 25-2 Embedded ball through the green, not just in closely mown areas; 6-3 Time of Starting, often the note at the end of the rule allows up to 5 minutes after your tee time to still play under penalty, but not disqualification; One Ball rule as outlined in Appendix Ic: Dropping Zones in Rules 24, 25 and 26. Again, the Local Rule must be in written form.
In closing, we strongly encourage you to read the Local Rules, etc. They could be another stroke saver!