Some major changes to the rules of golf are coming effective Jan. 1.

While the changes are myriad, from a high school golf perspective, the new rules changes figure to have the greatest impact on the pace of play.

A new rule that allows local courses to adopt a rule to allow golfers the option to play lost balls and out of bounds as a lateral hazard under a two-stroke penalty, for example, could have a major impact on shortening rounds at the prep level.

"It just eliminates having to go back to the tee for a lost ball," Silver Creek coach Bill Kipp said. "It's a pace of play issue as much as anything else and that really is a big deal in terms of high school because you have such a big difference of talent levels out there. I think it's a good thing in terms of pace of play and I think that will be helpful. I don't see an awful lot of differences in how the basic game will be played under the new rules, just pace at which it will be played."

Also in the interest of pace of play, certain penalties will be softened. Dropping a ball while taking relief, for example, will now be done from knee height. In the interest of equity and not penalizing golfers for unintentional acts that cause them no benefit, the new rules also dictate that there is no longer an additional penalty for a double-hit and there is no longer a penalty for a ball in motion being deflected by a player or an opponent, or any equipment.

Many of the new rules also alleviate some of other penalties in regards to bunkers, penalty areas and accidentally moving a ball. While the majority of the rules changes should not only speed up pace of play but also make certain aspects of scoring easier on prep golfers, there is also likely to be an adjustment period once they take effect.


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"There's going to be some adjustment, period," Kipp said. "And probably some mistakes made. It's going to take people a while to adjust to the new rules because they're really pretty extensive. My main concern is that due to the number of changes, there will be some confusion and that could cause some unfortunate situations where players proceed under the old rules."

Perhaps in contrary to the new rules' emphasis on pace of play, Kipp believes the newly-approved ability for golfers to repair basically any damage on the putting green — spike marks, animal damage, grounds crew damage, etc. — may actually slow the game down.

As much as golf's new rules figure to speed up the game at the prep level, Niwot head coach Ed Weaver thinks there is plenty more that can be done in terms of the way the game is taught to young golfers.

"I think golf has recognized that is has a problem with pace of play," Weaver said. "That's clearly one of the biggest issues we have in high school level. I think the rules will help a lot but there are plenty of other ways to speed up pace of play with the way we teach them to think their way through their rounds, like putting your golf bag on the right side of the green. Those little things add up over the course of a round.

"I wouldn't even mind implementing things like continuous putting or ready golf. There are a lot of other ways to speed up play and I think it's up to us coaches to put a major emphasis on pace of play and focus more on how we teach it."

Brad Cochi: cochib@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BradCochi