2019 Rules of Golf Modernized

There are now three versions of The Rules of Golf:

  1. The standard “full length” Rules book.
  2. The Official Guide to the Rules of Golf (for rules officials and committee members).
  3. The Player’s Edition of the Rules of Golf.

In consultation with other golf bodies in the world, the USGA and R&A review, revise and print the Rules of Golf every four years. The last edition was in 2016. The single set of Rules applies to players of all abilities and to both professionals and amateurs. The last complete review of the Rules of Golf was done in 1984.

Beginning in 2012 the USGA and R&A gave The Rules an extensive review in order to modernize them for easier understanding and to make the game more attractive and accessible for newcomers. The review included feedback from amateur golfers and PGA Professionals. The Player’s Edition of the Rules of Golf has been reduced from 34 to 24 pages with 10 less rules, and is written in the second person point of view. The new Rules of Golf went into effect on January 1, 2019.

It is your responsibility to know the Rules and to use them to your advantage instead of to your game’s disadvantage.

Here are some of the most important changes for you to have in mind that will directly affect your golf game:

Accidental Ball Movement

There are no longer penalties for accidental movement of the ball on the putting green, for accidental deflections, or for accidentally moving a ball while searching for it.

Double Hit

No penalty for accidentally hitting the ball more than once during a stroke. 

Making Repairs

Golfers are now allowed to fix damage on the putting green. In addition to fixing ball marks and old hole plugs, spike marks can now be tamped down.

Pace of Play

The rule of allowing five minutes to search for a lost ball has been reduced to a three-minute maximum. When it is your turn, be ready to hit your next shot within 40 seconds.

Bunker Changes

Loose impediments can now be removed from bunkers without a penalty.

Ball Drop

The ball must be dropped straight down from knee height (the height of the player’s knee when in a standing position).

Unattended Flagstick

No penalty if a ball played from the putting green (or anywhere else) hits the unattended flagstick in hole.

Penalty Areas

In drop areas players can ground their club, take practice swings hitting the ground, and remove loose impediments.

Playing Out of Turn in Stroke Play

No penalty for playing out of turn, and “ready golf” is encouraged when it can be done in a safe and responsible way. 

Stroke & Distance Penalty

A Local Rule can be instituted for an alternative to the stroke and distance penalty allowing a player who has not played a provisional ball to get a ball back in play, even in the fairway, for a two stroke penalty.

The rules changes were made to streamline The Rules, still keeping the core principles that you play the course as you find it, play the ball as it lies, and call penalties on yourself if you get them.

You can access further simplified changes on the USGA website at https://bit.ly/2CbsIbu.

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