New Rules of Golf unveiled, set for 2019 debut

Ruben Hill
March 14, 2018

The process began six years ago when the two groups began to analyze the rules and an agreement was finally reached this year. The modernized rules take effect in 2019.

"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. The majority of those proposed rules made the final version, the USGA and R&A stated.

"From all levels of the game, what we heard was that if you let people fix damage, they'll either take forever to do it, or essentially build a trough between their ball and the hole", said Pagel. "With 30-plus years of tinkering, they got complicated, and that wasn't good for the game".

Dropping procedure: When taking relief (from an abnormal course condition or penalty area, for example), golfers will now drop from knee height.

Players will not incur a penalty for removing loose impediments from bunkers, while they will only be allowed three minutes and not five, as it was before, to look for a lost ball.

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. For reference, there are only 24 rules now in the official rule book while there were 34 previously.

After that initial wave of proposed changes, the USGA and R&A accepted feedback for six months from players, rules experts and administrators worldwide.

The distance used to determine where a drop is taken will remain determined by club length, rather than the original proposal of 20 or 80 inches.

Club golfers will no longer have to endure the dreaded walk of shame back to the tee-box.

This gives golfers the simpler, less time-consuming option of dropping in the vicinity of where their ball went out-of-bounds or missing, under a two-stroke penalty.

Another aspect of the new rules philosophy is to rely more heavily on player integrity.

What they settled on: Eliminating the one-stroke penalty for a double-hit.

Golf's governing bodies are also encouraging ready golf in stroke play and recommend golfers take no longer than 40 seconds over a shot. One of them involves allowing golfers to fix spike marks in their putting line. Some players expressed concern that this might slow the pace if players spent too much time grooming the putting surface. (Key change: this is a new addition to support pace of play). No one wants to see a tournament decided by a spike mark in the line of a putt. "We're not testing whether you can navigate around a shoe print".

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. "It was really about finding a balance of maintaining that randomness while also allowing the player to identify a relief area, drop there as quick as possible and play on".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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