Diana Murphy, president of the USGA, speaks at the prize-giving ceremony at the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont.
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By Marika Washchyshyn
Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The USGA and R&A have reportedly agreed on a slew of rules changes, with the goal of simplifying and speeding up the game.
 
The changes, as first reported by Golfweek, include allowing players to repair marks left by shoe spikes on the greens; eliminating the club length as a measurement of taking relief; reducing the amount of time players can search for lost balls from five minutes to three; making use of yellow stakes in some hazard areas while placing more emphasis on using red stakes for water hazards; and allowing players to drop a ball from any height they so choose when taking relief instead of the standard shoulder-height.
 
A USGA spokesperson declined to comment on the specifics of the proposed amendments, but did confirm an implementation date of 2019, not 2020, as was previously reported by Golfweek.
 
The governing bodies have been mulling over various rule changes since 2013. A preview of the changes will be released in March, according to the USGA spokesperson.

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