New Rules of Golf for 2019 unveiled

Emma Williams
By Emma Williams March 12, 2018 13:13

The R&A and the USGA have unveiled the new Rules of Golf, to be implemented on January 1, 2019.

The most significant adjustments made following review of the 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. (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 his / her bag (other than a putter) to measure one club-length or two club-lengths, depending on the situation. (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. 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.(Key change: this is a new addition to support pace of play)

David Rickman, executive director – Governance at The R&A, said: “We are pleased to be introducing the new Rules of Golf after a collaborative and wide-ranging review process which has embraced the views of golfers, rules experts and administrators worldwide. We believe that the new rules are more in tune with what golfers would like and are easier to understand and apply for everyone who enjoys playing this great game.”

“We’re thankful for the golfers, administrators and everyone in the game who took the time to provide us with great insight and thoughtful feedback,” said USGA senior director of Rules & Amateur Status, Thomas Pagel. “We couldn’t be more excited to introduce the new rules ahead of their education and implementation.”

Major proposals introduced in 2017 that have been incorporated into the modernised 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 and so on, 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.

Players are reminded that the current edition of the Rules of Golf (2016) must be applied when playing, posting scores or competing for the remainder of 2018. The Rules of Amateur Status and the Rules of Equipment Standards were not part of this review process.

Golfers can now access the official 2019 Rules of Golf by visiting or


Emma Williams
By Emma Williams March 12, 2018 13:13
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  1. Dukie July 10, 12:40

    This article is so ambiguous, are the proposals for 2017 adopted for general amateur play, definitely or not please.
    We don’t know if we can leave the flag in or not etc. when putting, as 2016 says you can’t, but if 2017 are adopted we can!!!!
    Steve Duke

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  2. Neil March 14, 18:40

    All the things I asked for (and many other people asked too Im sure) have been followed. Mostly the “Add two shots and drop a ball near where it was lost” big step forward.

    Similarly, the new handicap system has been unveiled which will, I am sure have a big effect for the better on membership and comp participation. The rules come in next year and the handicap the year after.

    The new world handicap system can be used by clubs “on a trial basis” immediately (so as not to upset CONGU) until they come into force in 2020. Why should the golf industry continue to be damaged so badly by the CONGU system when there is a much better system on the horizon.

    We could operate the new world handicap system on a paper basis and I honestly think people will queue up to play in comps. Handicap is the average of the 8 best scores out of the last 20 rounds played. It doesnt say that “of course people will only submit the scores they want” but that will be the case. People can play a comp without the risk of going up (unless they want to) and submit whichever cards they like SO……those wishing to go up put in their worst cards those wishing to go down put in their best cards. All this can be done simply by having an official sheet hanging on the notice board (published by R&A us to photocopy). It has 20 columns for 20 scores .Players fill in in pencil and star the top 8 scores with a 21st coplum to write in the current handicap.

    As committee, our only role is to check the players have
    1. Submitted the cards correctly as recorded
    2. calculated the average correctly and written in the current handicap.

    This is pretty much how handicaps were done pre 1983 and was fun and popular. It would change the whole golfing scene. I was a handicap secretary from 1976 to 1986 and it never took more than half an hour a week to post results and handicaps by hand (no computer) for 60+ entries. It was that simple.

    Yes it is possible that CONGU current and world handicap system will differ (ie people have two handicaps) but as CONGU is charged to consider all evidence when allocating handicaps we could simply change CONGU handicaps to WH system .

    Im sure comp entries will again rise with the new appealing system.

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