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New rules: they have arrived, read up on the changes

The rules of golf
The rules of golf change on January 1, 2019. Image: Getty

The new rules of golf are here, and golfers have been urged to read up on the changes before they begin their 2019 golfing journeys.

The R&A and the USGA, who administer the rules worldwide, announced the changes in March 2018 after a consultation process that dates to 2012.

The new rules are now in force as of January 1, 2019 and include a raft of changes meant to modernise the rules and speed up the pace of play.

Some of the most significant alterations include:

1.There is no penalty if you accidentally move your ball on the green, or move your marker. A player may just replace it where it was previously, and play on. Player can also fix anything on the green, including spike marks.

2. You can ground your club in a hazard (provided you don’t use it to improve your position for the stroke). You can also move loose impediments without penalty.

3. If you fear your ball is lost, you have three minutes to find it (rather than the previous five minutes) before it automatically becomes a lost ball.

4. If you take a drop, either with a penalty or without, it is done from the knee, rather than the shoulder.

5. An accidental double hit is not penalised.

6. You can putt with the flagstick in and there is no penalty if the ball strikes it.

In addition to these changes, some clubs are expected to take up a local rule which states that a player who hits a ball out of bounds can drop between the position it appears to have come to rest and the edge of the fairway (but no nearer the hole) on a penalty of two shots.

The changes are the most significant for more than 60 years, with much of the language simplified and the number of rules reduced from 34 to 24. Clubs should have distributed a copy of the new Players Edition of the Rules of Golf this year.

Golf Australia's director rules and handicapping, Simon Magdulski, said it was hoped the changes would be picked up "organically" over time.

"Our aspiration is that we get at least one player in every group on every golf course by January who is across the new rules," he said.

"We don't expect every player to know straight away and that doesn't even need to happen.

"But we hope that if one player knows the new rules and another player goes to take an incorrect drop or something like that, then he or she would point that out. And the next time that player sees someone else trying to take an incorrect drop, then they would in turn point that out.

"Hence over time it works organically."

Magdulski said some of the new rules, such as the new drop-from-the-knees rule, were quite simple. He added that few of the changes endangered a player of incurring penalties.

"There are very few of them that you actually need to know. But players do need to know that they have to drop from knee-height or they'll be penalised, and the same for dropping in the correct relief area.

"They need to know that they only have three minutes looking for their ball. But a lot of it is not all that complicated.''

Golfers who wish to learn more can go to this section of our website to research the new rules:

Golf Australia