The Modernization of the Rules of Golf

Five years ago the USGA and the R&A began an in-depth initiative to modernize the Rules of Golf. With the understanding that the Rules have become even more complex and technical than ever before, two important characteristics were identified:

1. Even far-reaching Rule changes should be open for discussion, but golf’s fundamental character and principles such as “play the ball as it lies and the course as you find it” must be retained.

2. Revisions should be assessed with all golfers in mind – not only professionals and elite amateurs, but also beginners, high-handicappers and club and recreational golfers from around the world.

The goals of the modernization effort are to make the Rules:

• More easily understood and applied by all golfers

• More consistent, simple and fair

• Reinforce the game’s longstanding principles and character

Here are some of the proposed Rule changes that would take effect in 2019:

• Relaxed Putting Green Rules: Players may repair spike marks, animal damage and other damage on the putting green and there is no penalty for merely touching the line of putt. There is 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.

• Elimination or Reduction of “Ball Moved” Penalties: There is 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 Rules for “Penalty Areas” (Currently Called “Water Hazards”): Red and yellow-marked penalty areas may now 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 no penalty for touching the ground, water or loose impediments in a penalty area.

• Relaxed Bunker Rules: There is no penalty for touching loose impediments in a bunker or for generally touching the sand with a hand or club. A limited set of restrictions (such as no grounding the club right next to the ball) is kept to preserve the challenge of playing from the sand; however, an extra-relief option was 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: There is reduced time for searching for a lost ball (from five minutes to three); encouragement of “ready golf” in stroke play; recommending that players take no more than 40 seconds to play a stroke (and usually play more quickly than that); and other changes intended to help with pace-of-play.

• Simplified Way of Taking Relief: There is 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 just above the ground or any growing thing or other object on the ground.

As you can see, these proposed changes are definitely more player-friendly, and designed to make the game of golf more FUN and meet the ever changing demands of the global game. This feedback introductory period runs through August of this year and the governing bodies will then work on finalizing the changes in 2018 with a plan to have in place for January 1, 2019. Try out some of these ideas during your next round of golf and let us know what you think!

See you on the course,

Marc DeWall, PGA

Marc DeWall is the Director of Golf at The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch. He can be reached at mdewall@cordilleraranch.com or 830.336.4653.

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