The Royal & Ancient Golf Club has announced a number of Rule changes including the addressing of a golf ball and playing from a hazard.

The change of Rules, which will come into effect from January 1, 2012, will not penalise a player if their ball moves following address “when it is known or virtually certain that he or she did not cause the ball to move.”

This Rule change is announced during a season that has seen Webb Simpson lose a play-off at the Zurich Classic after dropping a shot whilst playing under the current Rules.

This Rule change has pleased three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington who said: “Every time the wind blows I am worried that my ball is going to move and I am worried about grounding my putter, distracting me from trying to hole my putt.” Harrington fell foul of the Rule at the Masters a few year ago.

Players who are playing from a hazard will now be able to smooth soil or sand before playing their shot if it is in the interest of caring for the course.

Other Rule changes that have also been announced include the definition of addressing the ball and changing the penalty for missing a start time by five minutes or less from automatic disqualification to just the loss of the first hole in matchplay or a two-stroke penalty on the first hole in strokeplay.

All of the new Rule changes can be found at the R&A official website.