All you need to know about the 2023 changes to the Rules of Golf
On 1 January 2023, a series of changes to the Rules of Golf will take effect in all countries around the world.
In addition to a small number of amendments to the Rules that apply to all golfers, the changes include groundbreaking modifications for people with disability, and a global modernisation of the way in which the rules are made available.
The Rules of Golf have traditionally been reviewed every four years by golf’s joint international governing bodies, the R&A and the United States Golf Association. It is the first time that specific regulations for golfers with disability have been included in the Rules of Golf.
Whether you are a regular club golfer, an administrator or a Rules expert, everything you need to know about the 2023 changes to the Rules of Golf is provided below – simply click on the menu item/s that cover the way you engage with golf.
Major rule change that all golfers should know – Simplified back-on-the-line relief
Simplified Back-on-the-Line Relief
This relief procedure, often used for penalty area and unplayable ball relief, has been simplified so the ball is now dropped on the line, and may roll up to one club-length in any direction without a re-drop being required. This change simplifies what had become a complex procedure that was regularly breached by golfers without them realising they had done so. It represents a return to the essence of the easy-to-apply, pre-2019 process, which was almost entirely free of inaccurate application by golfers at any level of the game.
Watch the video below (1 min 26 secs) on the updated Back-on-the-Line Relief procedure to be used when taking Penalty Area relief.
Watch the video below (1 min 12 secs) on the updated Back-on-the-Line Relief procedure to be used when taking Unplayable Ball relief.
New Rule of Golf (Rule 25) that applies only to golfers with disability
For the first time, specific regulations for golfers with disability have been included in the Rules of Golf. There are four sub-rules in the new Rule 25 that permit an “approved person” to perform certain actions that would result in a penalty if performed by a non-approved person.
Click here to access the application process, and for more information on the four new sub-rules for golfers with disability.
Discontinuance of hard copies of rule books | How to access the 2023 Rules via apps & websites
Another significant reform associated with the 2023 Rules is that hard copies will no longer be distributed to club members and administrators. In future, access to the Rules will be via R&A-approved websites and apps. Golf Australia is currently working with the R&A to upgrade the GA Handicap App to have it feature all 2023 R&A Rules content. This will enable all club golfers and administrators across Australia to gain world-class access to their handicapping and rules content from the one place. The app has now surpassed 250,000 downloads. The work on the GA Handicap App is projected to be completed in February 2023.
Until the work on the upgraded GA Handicap App has been completed by the R&A and Golf Australia, we encourage any administrator or golfer wanting access to the 2023 Rules to use the new R&A Rules of Golf app.
In addition, the R&A has also provided the following options to access the Rules:
Click here to access the R&A’s website version of the 2023 Rules.
Australia’s move to digital is part of the R&A’s and USGA’s global modernisation of the way in which the Rules are made available to golfers and administrators around the world. This initiative will eliminate any paper wastage and freighting associated with distributing 500,000 Rule books around Australia, many of which received little practical use and were intimidating to the vast majority of golfers. This historical practice of printing Rule books has become unsustainable, and the move to digital is an easy way for golf to support the environment.
For those people seeking a hard copy of the 2023 Rules, they will still be available for purchase – to source options from the various online retailers, simply Google “Official Guide to the Rules of Golf 2023”. For administrators who use this publication, the complete digital version of the resource will also be available at no cost within R&A-approved apps. (The “Official Guide” is the R&A’s current equivalent of the old “Decisions Book” – it includes all Rules of Golf text.)
Other changes that apply to all golfers, including relaxations in the rules that apply to damaged clubs and to handicaps on scorecards
Handicap on scorecard
Golfers will no longer incur a penalty under the Rules of Golf for accidentally recording an incorrect Daily Handicap on their scorecard. This is because the inclusion of the handicap in the official submission of a player’s score will become a responsibility of the Committee. This change is consistent with other penalty reductions, such as reducing the penalty down to only one stroke for playing an incorrectly substituted ball. (Note: In the same way that players are obliged to calculate Stableford points and to include score totals on their scorecard despite the Rules not requiring it, they will also be obliged to record their Daily Handicap when doing so will be helpful to administrators. GA will support any committee that encounters a problem in achieving assistance from golfers with this fundamental obligation.)
Replacing damaged clubs
If your club is damaged during a round (except in cases of abuse) you may replace it, repair it, or continue to use it.
It is likely that the practical playing experience of most golfers will not be impacted by the various other 2023 changes. For people wanting to view reference lists that include other changes, they are available by viewing the 2023 Rules Resources for Expert Users tab below.
2023 Rules Resources for expert users
Download the R&A 2023 Rules resource titled Principal Changes Introduced in the 2023 Rules of Golf.
Download the R&A 2023 Rules resource titled Outcome Changes: 2019 Rules to 2023 Rules Comparison.
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