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NORTON, Massachusetts – In January, the USGA and the R&A implemented the new Rules of Golf. The new rules contain significant changes to areas of the course and how they are treated under the Rules. As part of these changes, water hazards have been replaced by penalty areas and the Committee may now exercise discretion in defining penalty areas. Given this change, some courses have or are giving consideration to marking areas of the course that do not contain water as penalty areas.
Examples of such areas include native tall grass areas, heavily wooded areas and areas of dense vegetation. This may be done to provide an alternative to the stroke and distance procedure and perhaps improve pace of play. Further guidance regarding the marking of penalty areas can be found in the Official Guide to the Rules of Golf, Course Marking for General Play, Section 2C. We strongly encourage our Member Clubs to consider these recommendations as they relate to marking penalty areas.
It should be noted that converting areas described above to penalty areas will generally not have any impact on existing course ratings. A course rating may be impacted if new penalty areas are introduced on a significant number of holes and are located in close proximity to landing areas or greens or must be crossed during play of a hole. In such cases, a minor reduction in course rating and slope may be warranted and will be determined by the Course Rating Department. We encourage our Member Clubs to consult Mass Golf in advance of making such changes if there are concerns related to course rating impacts. We will also advise Member Clubs regarding any course rating impacts related to the creation or addition of penalty areas that have been implemented. In either case, Mass Golf will address such inquiries in the order in which they are received and shall endeavor to accommodate such requests in a timely manner.
Any requests for course rating services and or penalty area inquiries should be directed to:
Keith W. Gagnon
Manager of Course Rating