Pros advice

Golf’s new rules 2019 – what’s coming in?

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It’s all go for January after the R&A and USGA published their finalised Rules of Golf. So what’s coming in? Steve Carroll outlines the changes.

A year after they were first unveiled, and following wide consultation with thousands of golfers and organisations, the R&A and USGA have unveiled the finalised Rules of Golf that will come into force in January 2019.

Many are unchanged from the major proposals that were first unveiled in 2017 but, just in case you’ve forgotten, let’s take a look at what we’ll all now be following from the first day of next year…


When the ball accidentally moves…

They could call this the DJ rule but there will no longer be a penalty for accidentally moving a ball on the putting green or in searching for a ball. A player is not to be responsible for causing a ball to move unless it is “virtually certain” that he or she did so.


In a bunker…

There’s no penalty for removing loose impediments or for “generally” touching the sand with a hand or club. Don’t ground the club right next to the ball, though. For an unplayable ball in the sand, you’ll be able to play from outside the bunker with a two-stroke penalty.


Penalty areas…

There will be no penalty for touching the ground, or the water, in a penalty area and the same applies to lifting loose impediments. Red and yellow-marked areas will be expanded.


Pace of Play…

The time allowed for looking for a lost ball will be reduced from five to three minutes. Ready Golf – so playing when you’re ready and it’s safe – will be positively encouraged in strokeplay. It will be recommended that a shot takes no more than 40 seconds.


On the green…

Want to putt with the flagstick still in? Go for it. If a ball played from the green hits an unattended flagstick in the hole, it’s not a penalty and players may putt without having the flag attended or removed.

You’ll also be able to repair spike marks, other damage made by shoes, animal damage and any other damage on the putting green. You’ll also be able to touch the line of a putt.

New Golf Rules

Player integrity…

You’ll no longer need to announce when lifting a ball to identify it or check that it is damaged. “Reasonable judgement” will be allowed to measure a spot, point, line, area or distance – even if it is later found to be wrong with video evidence.


Dropping procedures…

The proposed change last year would have allowed a player to drop from any height but this has now been altered. Golfers will now drop from knee height when taking relief.


Measuring when taking relief…

One of the more unpopular changes in the proposed rules was changing club lengths to take relief from a 20-inch or 80-inch standard measurement.

Now a golfer’s relief area will be measured by using the longest club in their bag for a one or two club length relief, depending on the situation.


Double hits…

If you hit the ball more than once in the course of a stroke, you used to get penalised. Not from 2019. The one-stroke penalty that was included in the proposed Rules has been dropped. Golfers will just count the one stroke they made.


Alternative to stroke and distance…

This is a local rule, which will permit committees to give golfers the option of dropping “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’s designed to try and speed up play when a player would normally be required to go back under stroke and distance. It won’t apply to professional and elite level competitions.

A digital text-based version of the Rules is already available on the R&A website but a Player’s Edition of the Rules, the full edition and an Official Guide to the Rules of Golf, which replaces the Decisions book, will be published in September.

The Rules of Golf as they currently stand will be in force for all of this season’s competitions and events.


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