USGA, The R&A Add Clarity to New Definition of "Addressing the Ball"

By USGA and The R&A
April 11, 2012

Far Hills, N.J. and St. Andrews, Scotland – The United States Golf Association (USGA) and The R&A today issued a clarification of the new definition of “Addressing the Ball” with respect to the revised edition of the Rules of Golf, which took effect worldwide on January 1, 2012.

The clarification to the new definition of “Addressing the Ball,” referenced on page 22 of the Rules of Golf, deals specifically with the phrase “immediately in front of or immediately behind the ball.” In its continued review of the Rules, the USGA and The R&A have provided the following explanation to further clarify the new definition:  

  • If the golf club is grounded “closely” behind the ball in a position where it would be customary for a player to ground the club prior to making a particular stroke, then the club is considered to have been grounded “immediately behind the ball.”
  • The same interpretation of the definition would apply if a player grounds his or her golf club “closely” in front of the ball prior to making a stroke.

Commenting on the clarification, USGA Senior Director of Rules of Golf Thomas Pagel said: “We remain committed to ensuring that the Rules are clear, easy to understand and relevant to today’s game. In our regular review of the Rules to ensure these goals are met, we determined that the definition of addressing the ball could be interpreted in various ways and that further explanation was necessary.”

R&A Executive Director of Rules and Equipment Standards David Rickman said an additional explanation to the definition of “Addressing the Ball” was necessary given the changes made to Rule 18-2b. “We recognize that even after an extensive review of the Rules there can be specific areas that benefit from greater clarity and understanding, and we hope that this explanation will assist players and referees.”

In January, the USGA and The R&A released the new Rules of Golf for 2012-2015 following an exhaustive, four-year review of golf’s 34 playing Rules in which nine principal Rules were amended to improve clarity and ensure penalties are proportionate to rules breaches. One significant change was made to Ball Moving After Address (Rule 18-2b). The addition of a new exception exonerates a player from penalty if his or her ball moves after it has been addressed when it is known or virtually certain that the player did not cause the ball to move. For example, if a gust of wind moves the ball after it has been addressed, there is no penalty and the ball is played from its new position.

About the USGA 

The USGA conducts the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Senior Open, as well as 10 national amateur championships, two state team championships and international matches. Together with The R&A, the USGA governs the game worldwide, jointly administering the Rules of Golf, Rules of Amateur Status, Equipment Standards and World Amateur Golf Rankings. The USGA’s working jurisdiction comprises the United States, its territories and Mexico.

The USGA is a global leader in the development and support of sustainable golf course management practices. It serves as a primary steward for the game’s history and funds an ongoing “For the Good of the Game” charitable giving program. Additionally, the USGA’s Course Rating and Handicap systems are used on six continents in more than 50 countries.

For more information about the USGA, visit

About The R&A

Based in St Andrews, The R&A organises The Open Championship, major amateur events and international matches. Together with the United States Golf Association, The R&A governs the game worldwide, jointly administering the Rules of Golf, Rules of Amateur Status, Equipment Standards and World Amateur Golf Rankings. The R&A’s working jurisdiction is global, excluding the United States and Mexico.

The R&A is committed to working for golf and supports the growth of the game internationally and the development and management of sustainable golf facilities. The R&A operates with the consent of 143 organisations from the amateur and professional game and on behalf of over thirty million golfers in 128 countries.

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