The USGA and the R&A came to a rather historic meeting of minds on a single, unified Rules of Golf, effective through 2015, and also on a new code of amateur status. The big news of all this: There's no big news here.
“The key point is that the Rules of Golf will remain fundamentally the same," R&A Director of Rules and Equipment Standards David Rickman said in today's announcement. "We have undergone a pretty extensive review although what has come out of that has been relatively modest."
The amateur code establishes broader boundaries for the elite amateur, who can now have an agent and also accept reasonable subsistence expenses from her association. Nothing there applies to the everyday golfer who plays the game for fun.
As for the rules, there are two major changes, one of which signals an especially welcome improvement for those who play at poorly cared-for courses and the other an alteration adopting the way most of us play anyway.
The welcome improvement allows a player to rake a bunker before she plays her shot, so long as she is not improving her lie or testing the conditions. On courses where players don't bother to rake up after themselves, this at least reduces the possibility of a ball rolling back into a footprint should the player fail to get out on the first try.
The ho-hum change regards the much ballyhooed matter of putting a ball that's oscillating in the wind. It's not legal and is supposed to result in a one-shot penalty. Instead, it's resulted in pro golfers taking forever to address the ball, and in everyday players ignoring the rule so they can get in 18 holes on a windy day.
Now that the R&A and USGA have agreed to a single rulebook, maybe they could consider working on a second set of rules for the casual player who routinely violates the official rules and posts scores anyway. The hypocrisy of the handicap system, well, maybe that's a story for another day.