Golf’s modernized rules are now in effect
The USGA and The R&A have unveiled the new Rules of Golf, that were implemented January 1st, 2019.
The USGA and The R&A finalised golf’s new rules after an extensive review that included a request for feedback from the global golf community on the proposed changes. Golfers can now access the official 2019 Rules of Golf by visiting www.RandA.org or www.usga.org/rules.
The process to modernize the rules began in 2012 and was initiated to ensure that the rules are easier to understand and apply for all golfers and to make the game more attractive and accessible for newcomers.
As the National Sport Federation and governing body, Golf Canada worked alongside The R&A and the USGA on the rules modernization initiative.
THE MOST SIGNIFICANT ADJUSTMENTS MADE FOLLOWING THE REVIEW OF FEEDBACK RECEIVED FROM GOLFERS AROUND THE WORLD, INCLUDE:
• Dropping procedure: When taking relief (from an abnormal course condition or penalty area, for example), golfers will now drop from knee height. This will ensure consistency and simplicity in the dropping process while also preserving the randomness of the drop. (Key change: the proposed rules released in 2017 suggested dropping from any height).
• Measuring in taking relief: The golfer’s relief area will be measured by using the longest club in their bag (other than a putter) to measure one club-length or two club-lengths, depending on the situation, making for a consistent process for golfers to establish their relief area. (Key change: the proposed rules released in 2017 suggested a 20-inch or 80-inch standard measurement).
• Removing the penalty for a double hit: The penalty stroke for accidentally striking the ball more than once in the course of a stroke has been removed. Golfers will simply count the one stroke they made to strike the ball. (Key change: the proposed rules released in 2017 included the existing one-stroke penalty).
• Balls Lost or Out of Bounds: Alternative to Stroke and Distance: A new Local Rule will now be available in January 2019, permitting committees to allow golfers the option to drop 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. This local rule addresses the concerns raised at the club level about the negative impact on pace of play when a player is required to go back under stroke and distance. The local rule is not intended for higher levels of play, such as professional or elite level competitions.
MAJOR PROPOSALS INTRODUCED IN 2017 THAT HAVE BEEN INCORPORATED INTO THE MODERNIZED RULES INCLUDE:
• Elimination or reduction of “ball moved” penalties: There will be no penalty for accidentally moving a ball on the putting green or in searching for a ball; and a player is not responsible for causing a ball to move unless it is “virtually certain” that he or she did so.
• Relaxed putting green rules: There will be no penalty if a ball played from the putting green hits an unattended flagstick in the hole; players may putt without having the flagstick attended or removed. Players may repair spike marks and other damage made by shoes, animal damage and other damage on the putting green and there is no penalty for merely touching the line of putt.
• Relaxed rules for “penalty areas” (currently called “water hazards”): Red and yellow-marked penalty areas may cover areas of desert, jungle, lava rock, etc., in addition to areas of water; expanded use of red penalty areas where lateral relief is allowed; and there will be no penalty for moving loose impediments or touching the ground or water in a penalty area.
• 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. A limited set of restrictions (such as not grounding the club right next to the ball) is kept to preserve the challenge of playing from the sand; however, an extra relief option is added for an unplayable ball in a bunker, allowing the ball to be played from outside the bunker with a two-stroke penalty.
• Relying on player integrity: A player’s “reasonable judgment” when estimating or measuring a spot, point, line, area or distance will be upheld, even if video evidence later shows it to be wrong; and elimination of announcement procedures when lifting a ball to identify it or to see if it is damaged.
• Pace-of-play support: Reduced time for searching for a lost ball (from five minutes to three); affirmative encouragement of “ready golf” in stroke play; recommending that players take no more than 40 seconds to play a stroke and other changes intended to help with pace of play. Three publications are available to provide players and officials, guidance in how the Rules are applied:
• 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. Written in the “second person,” The Player’s Edition is intended to be the primary publication for golfers.
• The Rules of Golf: The full edition of the rules will be written in the third person and will include illustrations. The Rules of Golf is intended to be the primary publication for officials.
• The Official Guide to the Rules of Golf: This “guidebook” replaces the Decisions book and will contain information to best support committees and officials. It includes interpretations on the rules, committee procedures (available local rules and information on establishing the terms of the competition), and the Modified Rules of Golf for Players with Disabilities. It is a “long-form” resource document intended as a supplementary publication.
For more information of the rule changes or to get access to new rule books and educational tools visit Golf Canada’s website: golfcanada.ca.