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Rules from the Inside Out

Two officials from the Pacific Northwest – Barb Trammell, CEO of the Oregon Golf Association; and Dale Jackson, longtime PNGA Board member from Victoria, B.C. – were selected to serve on the international committee that put forth the proposed changes to the Rules of Golf

Barb Trammell had heard rumblings that a significant change to the Rules of Golf might be in the works. But that was her only hint in late 2013, when she was first approached to join the committee that would eventually propose the most sweeping changes to the Rules of Golf in decades.

Trammell was a logical pick to serve on the committee. A 30-year golf industry veteran who served as an LPGA Tour rules official and eventually the LPGA’s vice president of tournament operations, Trammell knows the Rules of Golf.

She accepted the invitation, not fully knowing what was in store.

“I had no idea how extensive or how involved it would be,” said Trammell, who began serving on the committee in early 2014.

On March 1 of this year, golf’s governing bodies announced a proposed overhaul to the Rules of Golf – a seismic shift in the game. Trammell, of course, played a role in crafting that proposal. Here is what she had to say about the experience.

Was there a certain mindset for change among the committee members from the start?

“I don’t think conceptually anybody knew exactly what was going to come out of this project. But the goal was to get a group of people together who have been involved with the Rules in some form or fashion and take a hard look at literally every rule. I mean, take it apart, kind of like puzzle pieces, and evaluate if there is a need for change. We wanted to study every rule – from a historical and a principal perspective – and understand how it got to where it is today.”

Was there a guiding principle?

“We always wanted to keep the basic principles of the game intact. There really hadn’t been a major revision since 1984, and prior to that it was 1952. And I think everybody was in agreement that it was kind of time to take a new look and see how we can better bring it into modern times.”

The process took nearly five years. Did the committee evolve over time?

“Early on, ‘simplification’ was the term floating around. Then we sort of got away from ‘simplification’ and moved to ‘modernization.’ That was really strategic. It wasn’t going to be that everything was going to be made simpler. But rather, ‘How can we make things easier to understand – through language, through the way the Rules are delivered, how we teach the Rules, and how they are organized?’”

Did you feel any reluctance to change by the committee?

“Not really. I think the people in the R&A and the USGA really felt like the time was right. So instead of making minor changes to the decisions, which happens every two years, or changes with the Rules, which happens every four years, I think they felt that it was just time to take a hard look at everything.”

What was your reaction to that stack of papers you received before your first meeting?

“My first reaction was ‘WOW.’ The amount of work that had already gone into it was unbelievable. My reaction was one of, frankly, amazement.”

How do you feel about the experience overall?

“In my time in golf, it’s probably the most transformational thing that I’ve ever seen done with the Rules, and being involved with it was a tremendous experience. I guess I was surprised, but happily surprised, that the conversations around the table were very open.”

What are your thoughts on the roll-out in March?

“I think the roll-out went really well. The USGA and R&A staffs, who really did all the heavy lifting on this, had all the documentation done ahead of time. All the materials were really well done. The messaging went really well. We felt everything has been received pretty positively, even from most media outlets.”

Was there any Rule that you really wanted to see changed?

“I don’t know if I really had anything in mind that I wanted to see changed. I was pretty much in agreement with a lot of the things that were talked about around the table. There are pros and cons, pluses and minuses. But I think for the most part we all ended up in agreement.”

Is there a Rule change that has been particularly tricky?

“One of the things that was most difficult is an option for a stroke and distance penalty for both a lost ball and out of bounds. The sticking point is the lost ball, because there is no point of reference for stroke and distance. That’s the one we’re still working on. I wouldn’t say we’ve given up on it, but it’s really difficult to find a workable solution.”

What work is left to do?

“The next meeting (in September in Los Angeles) will be key because the review period will be over, and we will see what those results are. Is there one big thing that we have gotten criticism for and do we have to go back to the drawing board on something? It will really be nailing down the final things that we need to take care of before they get finalized and officially rolled out to the public in 2018 (after that formal introduction, the changes will be implemented in January 2019). After that, the next key piece is training the trainers, so to speak, and then educating the general public on the new Rules.”

Zack Hall

Have an Opinion?


The USGA is looking for feedback about the proposed changes to the Rules. There are three ways to give your opinions:


        Visit and fill out the survey

        Send an email to [email protected]

        Call the USGA Rules team at 908.326.1850


Social media fans can also follow the discussion using #GolfRules2019


While the Rules are revised every four years, this is the first fundamental review since 1984, and was established to ensure the Rules fit the needs of today’s game and the way it is played around the world.


The deadline to give feedback about the proposed changes is August 31, 2017.