Golf Rules 2019 Guide

Pro golfers and amateurs all over the world are hit with good news in 2019 as there are a new set of rules introduced to golf. The R&A and the USGA released the modernized Rules of Golf earlier this year and took effect on first of January.  The main aim of the rules is to increase the speed of the game. While this is considered a good thing, it is going to bring about some confusion especially at the amateur and the club level for the first few months.

Golf rules have long been a topic of debate but with the simplified approach, the debate is nearing an end. It will also bring an end to the ambiguity brought about by many golf guidelines.

Even though the R&A and England Golf have been very helpful in communicating the new changes, the language is still difficult to digest not only among golfers and also the most experienced rules-savvy.

You however don’t have to worry because we’ve simplified the work by putting together 20 major rule changes most of which affect amateurs. The rules are broken down into categories and thoughts on how they will affect you to help you get prepared better for the game.


General Play – Golf Rules

The Standard for deciding why a ball moved

It will only be concluded that a player caused the ball to move if it was known or almost certain (at least 95% certain) that the player caused the movement of the ball. If that’s not the case, it will be concluded that natural forces caused the movement of the ball.

Well, everybody has had the experience. You address the ball, check the target and ensure everything is alright only to look back at the ball and see that it has moved slightly. You don’t have to worry about that anymore because you can carry on with the game as normal once your playing partners are sure that you didn’t hit the ball.

The ball is accidentally deflected while in motion

If you or your equipment accidentally deflects the ball, you will not get any penalty but you will have to play from where the ball rests.

You should, however, refrain from leaving any object or your bag on the way when approaching the green. This is inappropriate and an annoying habit.

Embedded ball relief

If the ball is embedded anywhere (except in the sand) in the ‘general area’ also meaning ‘through the green’, relief will be allowed without penalty.

You can now bid goodbye the ‘plugged ball through the green’ since you can now take relief without penalty if you’re plugged in the general area.

Accidental double-hit

If you accidentally strike the ball twice, no need to worry since you’ll get no penalty and you’ll be allowed to play the ball as it lies.

Striking the ball more than once unintentionally is a common thing. The good news is that golfers will now get zero penalties for double hits. This rule is likely to simplify and streamline things.

Prompt pace of play

Golfers are now needed to play ‘ready golf’. Each stroke should not take more than 40 seconds.

Maximum score form of stroke play

There is now a new ‘maximum score’ form of stroke play. The score hole is cabbed at a specific number to increase the play pace.

The course gives you an option to set a ‘maximum score’ of any hole on the course so that anytime you play; you can have the option of putting your partners out of any problem. So, you can simply pick up because you won’t get an N/R.

On the Green – Golf Rules

There is no penalty for a moving ball on the putting green

If you accidentally move your ball or ball-maker while on the putting green, you don’t need to worry because you’ll get no penalty.

This is a great step to save everyone’s time.

Replacing a moving ball on the putting green

If your ball is lifted and replaced, you must put it back to its original position even if the wind blew it or there is no clear reason as to why it moved.

If your ball happens to move accidentally no matter the course, you need to put it back to its original position. You can then continue playing and you will not be penalized like in the past.

Repairing damage on the putting green

You can repair any kind of damage you find on the putting green including animal damage or spike marks.

Now you don’t have to ask permission from your opponent before repairing pitch marks on your line. You are now free to repair the spike marks, pitch marks and animal damage on the green. This, however, should not be an excuse to slow down the pace of the game.

Touching play line on the putting green

Touching your line of play on the putting green will have no penalty as long as it does not improve the conditions of your stroke.

You’ll not get any penalty as long as your actions do not improve your stroking area.

Putting with flagsticks left in the hole

A ball played from the putting green or anywhere does not attract any penalty if it hits unattended flagstick and ends up in the hole.

This is a good rule that will help improve the pace of the player since the first player on the green will not have to wait for the partners to attend to the flag or get the flag out of the hole when facing 60 footer. Leave the flag as it is and continue with the putt.

Caddie lifting ball on the putting green

Your caddie can lift and replace the ball on the putting green without your consent.

While this seems to apply more to the professional golfers, you should keep in mind to apply it when you’re lucky enough to get a caddie.

Bunkers – Golf Rules

Unplayable ball in bunker

You get a relief outsider a bunker for two penalty strokes for an unplayable ball.

If you think a ball is unplayable, you can simply pick it and drop it outside the bunker, get two penalty strokes and continue with the round.

Rules for touching sand or loose impediments on the bunker are now relaxed

You are now prohibited from touching the sand under three conditions (1) with the club or hand while testing the condition of the bunker (2) touching the area behind or in front of the ball with your club (3) you should not touch when making a practice or making a backswing for a stoke.

Yes the rules are now relaxed, but that doesn’t mean that you can just ground your club behind a bunker before hitting a shot. The only different that this rule makes is that, for instance, you can step into the bunker, lean on the club while waiting for your playing partner to play or if you drop your wedge, and you won’t get penalized.

Damaged Ball Golf Rules

Substituting a cut or cracked ball with another

You are allowed to substitute your cut or cracked ball with another while playing the hole.

This is a relief for golfers since they won’t get any penalty for clipping a tree. They won’t have to wait for the end of a hole before replacing a damaged ball. You simply replace a cut or damaged ball in play while playing the particular hole. However, you cannot just change a ball simply because it’s out of shape.

Hazards Golf Rules

Touching impediments or ground in the penalty area

You won’t be penalized for moving loose impediments, grounding the club in the penalty area or touching the ground.

Grounding your club behind the ball in the hazard area while taking a shot will not be a problem at all.

Rules for Taking Drops or Relief

A lost ball or out of bounds: a substitute to stroke or distance

A new local rule that will allow golfers to drop the ball near the place it got lost or went out of bound as well as the nearest fairway area for a penalty of two strokes.

This rule will no doubt increase the pace of the game. It will save you from having to run up to 250 yards back to the tee after realizing you forgot to hit a provisional and let your group down when you hit another fairway in the opposite direction and lose it as well. Well, this nightmare is now past tense.

This rule is, however, not for professionals or elite level golfers.

Relief area

The longest club in your bag will not work in place of a putter to determine the relief area for dropping a ball and it will be a fixed size of either one or two club-lengths.

So in future when you want to take relief then you will use your driver or the longest club in your bag to measure two club lengths. This will make the game fairer and your playing partners will not ask questions about where you should take lateral relief.

Drop procedure

You must take a penalty drop from the knee length at it should fall without touching your equipment or any part of your body.

This rule is likely to bring about some on-course discussions and most likely be the most important 2019 golf rule change. But you must be aware that you will not be allowed to drop from shoulder height anymore but instead drop from knee height. And it will no doubt increase the consistency for golfers when dropping for relief.

Lost ball search time

The ball will be considered lost if you’re not able to find it in three minutes.

Now instead of the old five minutes search time, you will only have three minutes to search for your ball otherwise it will be considered lost.

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