New Rules of Golf 2019: 9 Major Rule Changes You Should Care About

Golf Rule Changes in Picture: Putting with the flagtick in
One of the more controversial rule changes: putting with the flagstick in (pexels.com)

It’s 2019 and for most of us in the golf world, that means the anticipation is over and it’s time to get familiar with the modernized rules of golf. Some of these rule changes are very well accepted and long overdue, while others are controversial and will take some time to get used to. I’ve put together a list of the most Important rules changes that both caddies and players should be aware of. For the most part, the USGA seems to be focused on speeding up the pace of play, which will hopefully put an end to those five and a half-hour rounds that we’ve all had to endure. Here are the major golf rule changes to keep at  top of mind in 2019.

5 Major Golf Rule Changes Every Golfer Should Know:


1. The New Procedure for Dropping a Ball



The new procedure for dropping a ball in a relief area is to simply drop the ball from knee height. This is one rule that has been changed before. In the early days of golf, the procedure was to drop the ball over the shoulder so that the ball comes to rest behind you. It was then simplified to shoulder height and an arm’s length. In 2019 dropping a ball in a relief area has been oversimplified and has only one requirement, that the ball be dropped from knee height. This will reduce the chances of the ball coming to rest outside of the relief area and reduce the chances of the ball being embedded when dropped in bunker.

2. Time for Search Before a Ball is Lost



The time for search before a ball is declared lost was reduced from 5 to 3 minutes. In the spirit of pace of play, the USGA decided to reduce search time by 2 minutes. This change is one that should be welcomed by all players since it will impact the length of each round. Shortening the search time will likely increased the number of balls lost but will encourage players to hit a provisional ball if there is any uncertainty of where the ball came to rest.

3. Ball in Motion Accidentally Deflected



There is no penalty when a golf ball is accidentally deflected by a player, his equipment, or his caddie. Prior to the change, a penalty was incurred if a ball was deflected by the player, his or her equipment, his or her caddie, but not the opponent, their equipment, nor their caddie. Under rule 11.1, the USGA concludes that accidental deflection, no matter what the outside agent is, retains the same level of randomness, resulting in the same number of favorable outcomes as unfavorable ones. There are exceptions that would result in a penalty if a player purposely sets his or her equipment in a place that would be advantageous in the event of a deflection. An example would be if a player places his or her bag behind to green to act as a backstop.

4.  No Penalty for Moving a Ball on the Putting Green



We’ve all been there. You get ready to mark your ball on the green, but instead you accidentally knock it from its original spot. Sometimes simply walking on the green can cause an accidental kick of the ball. After some careful consideration, the USGA decided that it gets a bit unfair to penalize a player for accidentally moving a ball on the putting green when making reasonable preparations for their next stroke. Reasonable preparations include practice strokes and making a mark on your ball. So, the next time you’re making a practice stroke on the green and accidentally move your ball, you can try your best to place it in its original spot without a penalty.

5. Repairing Damage on the Green



The new rules states that players can now repair all sortsof damage on the putting green. Previously players were only allowed to repair ball marks that are on the line of play. After a careful revision, the USGA decided to include spike marks (or other types of shoe damage), animal damage, and damage caused by maintenance staff. This rule was changed because there was a lot of uncertainty as to what kinds of marks would classify as a ball mark, which could be repaired, or animal damage which could not be repaired. There are some key exceptions to keep in mind. Players may not repair aeration holes, natural imperfections in the putting surface, and natural wear of the green.


4 Major Golf Rule Changes Every Caddie Should Know for 2019


1. Caddie Standing Behind a Player to Help Line the Player Up



This new rule, under rule 10.2b (4), prohibits caddies from standing on or near an extension of the line of play to assist the player in alignment. The USGA claims that the ability to accurately align one’s self is a fundamental skill in the game of golf and the player should carry out that action without any help. One key note here is that there is no penalty for accidentally standing on the extension of the line of play, as long as the caddie is not assisting the player in alignment.

2. Touching the Line of Play on the Putting Green



This rule change is huge for caddies. Previously, there was a two-stroke penalty awarded if a caddie touched an extension of the line of play, while giving a player advice on their line (if playing for break) on the green. This rule has been eliminated under the new rules in 2019. Caddies are now free to touch any part of the green, as long as there is no intention to improve the line of play, even with the flag stick.

3. Caddie Lifting Ball on the Putting Green



Under rule 14.1b a caddie is now allowed to mark, lift, and clean a player’s ball at any time on the green. The caddie can perform this task with or without approval from the player. The ball can then be replaced by either the player or the caddie if the caddie marked and lifted the ball. A caveat here is that the caddie can only replace the ball when he or she is the one to lift it. If the player lifts the ball, that player must be the one to replace it. The USGA feels that this is consisted with the role of a caddie and should aid in pace of play efforts.

4. Ball Played from Putting Green Hits Unattended Flagstick



This is a major rule change and easily one of the most talked about. Players are now allowed to leave the flagstick in the hole while putting on the green, even if the player believes that doing so will help them. Previously, there was a two-stroke penalty for having your ball hit the flagstick while putting on the green. The idea behind this rule change is that it will speed up play, especially for those that play without a caddie. As it pertains to fairness, the consensus is that the putting with the flagstick in can help just as often as it can hurt. This doesn’t stop the likes of Bryson DeChambeau from embracing this rule change. He has a more scientific approach which involves the coefficient of restitution. That, however, is a topic for another day.

Expect an Interesting Season for Golf


With all the changes in the rules of golf for 2019, the year is sure to be an interesting one. Expect a lot of questionable decision-making in the upcoming season. The good news is that we should also expect some shorter rounds, in theory. It will be interesting to see if this becomes reality. What are some of the new rules changes you find interesting or pivotal in 2019 that I forgot to mention? Drop a line in the comments section. I’d love to hear how you plan to utilize these new rules.

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