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Final Rules changes for 2019 confirmed

Ball drop

The R&A and the USGA have unveiled the new Rules of Golf, to be implemented on 1 January 2019.

The R&A and the USGA finalised golf’s new Rules this month after an extensive review that included a request for feedback from the global golf community on the proposed changes. Golfers can now access the official 2019 Rules of Golf by visiting RandA.org or usga.org/rules.

The process to modernise the Rules began in 2012 and was initiated to ensure that the Rules are easier to understand and apply for all golfers and to make the game more attractive and accessible for newcomers. 

While the majority of proposed Rules remain intact in the final version, several important changes to the initial proposals and further clarification of many Rules were incorporated. The most significant adjustments made following review of the feedback received from golfers around the world include:

• Dropping procedure: When taking relief (from an abnormal course condition or penalty area, for example), golfers will now drop from knee height. This will ensure consistency and simplicity in the dropping process while also preserving the randomness of the drop. (Key change: the proposed Rules released in 2017 suggested dropping from any height).

• Measuring in taking relief: The golfer’s relief area will be measured by using the longest club in his/her bag (other than a putter) to measure one club-length or two club-lengths, depending on the situation, providing a consistent process for golfers to establish his/her relief area. (Key change: the proposed Rules released in 2017 suggested a 20-inch or 80-inch standard measurement).

•Removing the penalty for a double hit:  The penalty stroke for accidentally striking the ball more than once in the course of a stroke has been removed. Golfers will simply count the one stroke they made to strike the ball.  (Key change: the proposed Rules released in 2017 included the existing one-stroke penalty).

•Balls Lost or Out of Bounds: Alternative to Stroke and Distance:  A new Local Rule will now be available in January 2019, permitting committees to allow golfers the option to drop the ball in the vicinity of where the ball is lost or out of bounds (including the nearest fairway area), under a two-stroke penalty. It addresses concerns raised at the club level about the negative impact on pace of play when a player is required to go back under stroke and distance. The Local Rule is not intended for higher levels of play, such as professional or elite level competitions. (Key change:  this is a new addition to support pace of play)

David Rickman, Executive Director – Governance at The R&A, said, “We are pleased to be introducing the new Rules of Golf after a collaborative and wide-ranging review process which has embraced the views of golfers, rules experts and administrators worldwide. We believe that the new Rules are more in tune with what golfers would like and are easier to understand and apply for everyone who enjoys playing this great game.”

 “We’re thankful for the golfers, administrators and everyone in the game who took the time to provide us with great insight and thoughtful feedback,” said USGA Senior Director of Rules & Amateur Status, Thomas Pagel. “We couldn’t be more excited to introduce the new Rules ahead of their education and implementation.”

Major proposals introduced in 2017 that have been incorporated into the modernised Rules include:

• Elimination or reduction of “ball moved” penalties: There will be no penalty for accidentally moving a ball on the putting green or in searching for a ball; and a player is not responsible for causing a ball to move unless it is “virtually certain” that he or she did so.

• Relaxed putting green rules: There will be no penalty if a ball played from the putting green hits an unattended flagstick in the hole; players may putt without having the flagstick attended or removed. Players may repair spike marks and other damage made by shoes, animal damage and other damage on the putting green and there is no penalty for merely touching the line of putt.

• Relaxed rules for “penalty areas” (currently called “water hazards”): Red and yellow-marked penalty areas may cover areas of desert, jungle, lava rock, etc., in addition to areas of water; expanded use of red penalty areas where lateral relief is allowed; and there will be no penalty for moving loose impediments or touching the ground or water in a penalty area.

• Relaxed bunker rules: There will be no penalty for moving loose impediments in a bunker or for generally touching the sand with a hand or club. A limited set of restrictions (such as not grounding the club right next to the ball) is kept to preserve the challenge of playing from the sand; however, an extra relief option is added for an unplayable ball in a bunker, allowing the ball to be played from outside the bunker with a two-stroke penalty.

• Relying on player integrity: A player’s “reasonable judgment” when estimating or measuring a spot, point, line, area or distance will be upheld, even if video evidence later shows it to be wrong; and elimination of announcement procedures when lifting a ball to identify it or to see if it is damaged.

• Pace-of-play support: Reduced time for searching for a lost ball (from five minutes to three); affirmative encouragement of “ready golf” in stroke play; recommending that players take no more than 40 seconds to play a stroke and other changes intended to help with pace of play.

Presented in digital, text-based form today, the new Rules will also now be translated into more than 30 languages and readied for final delivery via print and digital formats, including searchable Rules of Golf official apps developed by The R&A and the USGA.

Three important publications, to be distributed in September, will help players as well as officials and provide interpretation and guidance in how the Rules are applied: 

• The Player’s Edition of the Rules of Golf: An abridged, user-friendly set of the Rules with shorter sentences, commonly used phrases, and diagrams. Written in the “second person,” The Player’s Edition is intended to be the primary publication for golfers.

• The Rules of Golf: The full edition of the Rules will be written in the third person and include illustrations. It is intended to be a more thorough version of the revised Rules.

• The Official Guide to the Rules of Golf: This “guidebook” replaces the Decisions book and will contain information to best support committees and officials. It includes interpretations on the Rules, committee procedures (available local rules and information on establishing the terms of the competition), and the Modified Rules of Golf for Players with Disabilities. It is a comprehensive resource document intended as a supplementary publication.

More than 30 “how-to apply” videos and a summary of the principal changes are now available at usga.org/rules.  Additional education tools will be released in September. 

Players are reminded that the current edition of the Rules of Golf (2016) must be applied when playing, posting scores or competing for the remainder of 2018. The Rules of Amateur Status and the Rules of Equipment Standards were not part of this review process.   

As an extension of their support of the Rules of Golf worldwide, Rolex has made a commitment to support The R&A and the USGA’s efforts to modernise golf’s Rules. The Swiss watchmaker’s contribution to excellence in golf is based on a rich heritage stretching back more than 50 years, forged through pivotal partnerships at every level of the game, from the sport’s leading professional and amateur competitions and organisations, to players at the pinnacle of their sport worldwide.


Comments

Posted by Brian spackman at
14/06/2018 11:04 AM
I received the rules that said a ball only had to be dropped from 1 inch( recommended) which is correct knee high or 1 inch
Posted by Mike Oehme at
10/06/2018 11:06 PM
To be fair to golfers of all levels one should be allowed to get a drop out of a divot that has been made by other players & also where roots can cause clubs to be damaged of players to hurt themselves .
Posted by john may at
30/05/2018 10:31 AM
My playing partner suffers from the 'yips' on more than one occasion during the round he double hits his puts , sometimes it goes in sometimes misses.. with the new rule he will not now count his 'double hit'... its going to cost me a fortune!!!
Posted by Bill Buchanan at
29/05/2018 06:32 PM
I can't see too many benefits in leaving the stick in the hole - too often they lie at an angle and often enough a ball putted from off the green can hit the stick and bounce off. No rule in golf should be poorly defined - as we all know. So the term "in the vicinity" for lost balls can certainly leave room for arguments. I agree with Ian Trevena that the ability to tap down any imperfection on the putting green, this will actually slow the game down as pedants look for any such imperfection.
Posted by IAN TREVENA at
27/05/2018 12:49 PM
I believe the new rules are "dumbing down" the game. In particular the ability to leave the flagstick in the hole when putting, the very poorly defined term "in the vicinity" for lost balls, the removal of a penalty for moving impediments in hazards, are the worst. And as for the ability to tap down any imperfection on the putting green, this will actually slow the game down as pedants look for any such imperfection. The game and its Rules have stood the test of time. This wholesale revision aimed at making it more "user friendly" will achieve little, other than to reinforce the increasing tendency for players to form "cliques" among like minded players who know and comply with the rules, leaving others and, most notably, those hoped for "new players" to fend for themselves, probably never to learn the discipline that is required in this game of self-administration.
Posted by can i pls get new rules sent by email at
26/05/2018 10:57 AM
Looks very exciting
Posted by David at
17/05/2018 11:37 PM
So then there will be a penalty when a ball played from the putting green hits an attended flagstick in the hole.
Posted by gregor at
22/04/2018 02:08 PM
Certainly a good move on all rules, like a lot of others cannot believe they did not change the divot rule. Easy to apply by lifting ball to be beside divot
Posted by Anthony at
18/04/2018 06:55 PM
Absolutely agree Freddy. That’s the worst rule in golf. Problem though becomes interpretation of what constitutes a divot. That’s where integrity becomes the priority, which unfortunately is about as common as common sense. I sympathise with the rule makers!
Posted by Freddy Botica at
13/04/2018 04:48 PM
A free drop from a ball lying in a divot on the fairway should have been adopted. It makes more sense than many of the new rules.
Posted by Janet Graham at
24/03/2018 11:08 AM
Can we please have an explanation on why the rule has not been changed as to when a player’s ball lands in a divot on the fairway. The first group out has a definite advantage over other groups in this regard.
Posted by Jack at
21/03/2018 08:49 AM
Good news, particularly the double hit rule which never made sense. Would love to see the ball in divot on fairway issue resolved.
Posted by Iris 20./03/2018 at
20/03/2018 01:47 PM
I see many benefits in these changes which can only improve the pace of play and make golf even more enjoyable.
Posted by gary small at
20/03/2018 01:03 PM
How big is the Vicinty area for a drop lost bal or O.O.B
Posted by Jenny at
19/03/2018 10:00 PM
I agree with Paul to be penalised for someone else’s lazyness in not repairing a divot on the fairway should have been adressed
Posted by Paul at
18/03/2018 07:51 PM
I think moving a ball from a divot on the fairway without penalty should have been addressed as well. It’s probably the worst penalty a golfer (amateur) gets even after playing a good shot.
Posted by Larry Jones at
16/03/2018 04:42 PM
Was the proposal for clubs to be able to make a local law setting a "maximum score per hole" in stroke play, introduced? I thought this would be an enormous time saver for stroke rounds>
Posted by Terry Chant at
16/03/2018 12:25 AM
we need to have a rule about TREE ROOTS this is becoming a big problem, or are we all insured for any injuries & work
Posted by Allan McDonald at
15/03/2018 10:29 AM
What happened to the idea of a free drop from surface tree roots that interfere with a swing?
Posted by Maurice Ryall at
14/03/2018 07:09 PM
"Shorter sentences" my Copy Chief, the late Arthur D. Hankin surely would be impressed.
Posted by David Ransom at
14/03/2018 05:38 PM
A player hits a long drive and the ball can not be found. All agree it almost certainly did not go out of bounds nor into a hazard and could be anywhere within a large radius. How is the position of the next shot determined?
Posted by john fuller at
14/03/2018 04:07 PM
well done common sense applied to anoying and time costly occurances on the course
Posted by peter coombes at
14/03/2018 03:03 PM
What is achieved by dropping from knee height? Balls on slopes will still need to be redropped then placed saving nothing. R&A have dropped the ball on this one.
Posted by Tim Gale at
14/03/2018 02:09 PM
Very impressive. Do hope the Specimen Local Rules are reproduced at the back of the Players Rule book, to help Clubs in detailing their Local Rules on the score cards. Players will not be carrying, or ever accessing, the Guides on the course!
Posted by Cheryl Fairclough at
14/03/2018 01:02 PM
Well done on changing to more player friendly rules. I would like to know as to why our club has changed our yellow pegs to red pegs even though we generally hit OVER most water hazards?
Posted by Bernard Barry at
14/03/2018 11:17 AM
Well done R&A and USGA. The new changes will help move the game along and bring common sense to the game.
Posted by chris at
14/03/2018 11:13 AM
Excellent changes, I always advocated being able to drop the ball after it is hit OB for amateurs, there is no point to traipse back to the tee, game is slow enough. I don't believe (many? any?) players set out with the intent to cheat so by not penalising golfers for previous infractions such as ball moving, touching something in a hazard or bunker is actually a nod to one of the finer parts of the game which is supervising ourselves. Just wondering if the rule has changed about landing in a divot? That has never seemed fair to me, it is not part of the course set up per se, it is human damage and players should be allowed to drop nearby. And for that matter, many courses should have preferred lie all the time such is standard of some fairways (drought affected, bare patches, poor grass and so on)
Posted by Brian Marshall at
14/03/2018 10:47 AM
Hooray. Great boost for common sense. These changes will take most of the angst out of the game, speed up play and considerably enhance the joyful golfing experience. Well done!
Posted by IGAV at
14/03/2018 10:31 AM
Good work R&A and USGA, makes it much easier for social golf
Posted by Neville Bennet at
14/03/2018 09:32 AM
Commonsense,thank you all.
Posted by Lew Forsyth at
14/03/2018 07:44 AM
Common sense prevails congrats.
Posted by Brett at
13/03/2018 06:22 PM
As a club golfer (chopper), I'm seeing a lot of positive in the new rules.
Posted by Janine at
13/03/2018 04:29 PM
Brilliant!! Well done all involved. Can’t wait for it to start
Posted by John at
13/03/2018 04:28 PM
What about clubs reducing competition to 9 holes and having front nine back nine comps. More likely people will spend 2 hours to play and it gives more flexibility
Posted by IAN BROWN at
13/03/2018 12:00 PM
Wonderful insight and common sense applied to every one of these changes - Congratulations R&A and USGA for wiping out so many petty, subjective and annoying rules.
Posted by Greg Higham at
13/03/2018 11:05 AM
Brilliant work R&A and USGA! This is going to revolutionise the game.

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