2019 Rules of Golf Changes

With the laudable objective of simplifying the rules of golf and making the game more approachable and friendlier for novices, the USGA has devised the most sweeping overhaul of the rules in more than 60 years. These changes go into effect on January 1, 2019. Of course, Par Royal IV tournaments will be played by these rules as our 2019 season commences. To keep things fun and enjoyable for everyone, you are strongly encouraged to learn more about the new rules. We don't want players to be hearing about the changes for the first time while on the course during one of our tournaments!

Summary of Significant Rule Changes

Dropping Procedure: When dropping a ball, you now drop a ball from knee height instead of from shoulder height. The ball must be dropped into the "relief area" and come to rest in the relief area or otherwise it will be redropped. The relief area is one or two club lengths (depending on the situation) using the length of the longest club in the player's bag other than the putter.

Accidental Contact with Ball in Motion: If a ball in motion is accidentally deflected by a player or equipment, play the ball as it lies. There is no longer a penalty, including in the case where a player strikes the ball twice or more in a single stroke (double-hit).

Accidental Movement of a Ball at Rest: If a ball at rest is accidentally moved while searching for it, or if a ball or ball marker on the green is accidentally moved, there is no penalty. Replace the ball as near as possible to the original position and continue.

Putting Green Play: It is now permitted to repair the putting green surface (for example, ball pitch marks, spike marks) prior to making a putt. Also, there is no longer a penalty for a putt which strikes the flag stick of a flag which was left in the hole.

Bunker Play: It is now permitted to move loose impediments in the bunker. Also, there's no longer a penalty for accidentally touching the sand with a hand or club. It's also possible to take relief for an unplayable ball in the bunker (one stroke penalty), or even take relief outside the bunker (two stroke penalty).

Penalty Areas: The new rules introduce the term "penalty area" which can include water and any other unplayable area that a club may choose to mark as a penalty area. They may still be marked as red or yellow, thus there are "red penalty areas" and "yellow penalty areas". Red penalty areas allow for lateral relief and the option of taking relief on the opposite side of a red penalty area (formerly known as a lateral water hazard) has been removed. It is now permitted to move loose impediments in a penalty area, and there is no penalty assessed for accidentally touching the ground with a club in a penalty area.

Embedded Ball: If a ball is embedded in its own pitch-mark, you can take free relief by dropping directly behind where the ball was embedded.

Ball Lost or Out of Bounds: A new model local rule MAY be adopted by a course allowing a player to drop a new ball for a ball that is lost (but not lost in a penalty area) or out of bounds for a two stroke penalty. The relief area encompasses from the point where the ball is lost or out of bounds to the edge of the nearest fairway and anywhere behind that line.

Pace of Play: Time allowed for searching for a lost ball has been reduced from 5 minutes to 3 minutes, and a provisional ball may be played at anytime while searching. Official rules now recommend playing "ready golf", and recommend that a player take no longer than 40 seconds in taking a stroke.

Additional Resources

This is just a summary of some of the more signficant changes, and many details have been left out. Please use these additional resources to make sure you are well-informed!