The R&A and the USGA have unveiled the new Rules of Golf which will take effect on 1 January 2019.
Highlights of the Rule changes 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.
- 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 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” (formerly water hazards)
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. 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.
- 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 and other changes intended to help with pace of play.
- Simplified way of taking relief
A new procedure for taking relief by dropping a ball in and playing it from a specific relief area; relaxed procedures for dropping a ball, allowing the ball to be dropped from knee height.
- Alternative to Stroke & Distance
A new Local Rule permitting committees to allow golfers the option to drop the ball in the vicinity of where the ball is lost or out of bounds under a two-stroke penalty. It addresses 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.
You can also click on the photos on the right to see explanations of some of the more important changes.
R&A RULES OF GOLF WEBSITE
Click to go to the Official Rules of Golf website, which is made up of 6 parts:
- The Rules of Golf (full version) which is intended for those who administer the game and who need to answer the variety of questions that can arise in relation to golf competitions.
- The Rules of Golf (Player’s Edition) which is intended for you, the golfer. It contains the Rules situations that occur most commonly on the course and is an abridged version of the full Rules. Although its text is edited, it gives you the same answer that is in the full Rules of Golf and so it is a functioning Rule book.
- Definitions - over 70 defined terms and these form the foundation around which the Rules are written. A good knowledge of the defined terms (which are in a lighter blue and bold) is very important to the correct application of the Rules.
- Interpretations - provided only for aspects of the Rules that are considered to require additional clarification. However, the vast majority of questions that arise on the course will be answerable solely by reference to the Rules of Golf and so it is recommended that a thorough review of the relevant Rule is undertaken before referring to the Interpretations for guidance.
- Committee Procedures - practical guidance for those involved in running day to day play at golf courses or running competitions at all levels of the game. It is divided into guidance for "general play" (when the Committee is not running a competition) and guidance for "competitions", while recognizing that the two often overlap. Section 8 also provides Model Local Rules that the Committee can adopt to meet local needs.
- Rules for Players with Disabilities - allowing a player with a disability to play fairly with players who have no disabilities, the same disability or different types of disabilities. The Modified Rules only apply if adopted by the Committee in charge of a competition. They do not apply automatically to every competition involving players with disabilities.