On January 1, 2019, revisions to the rules of golf will be announced and the game, as we know it, will change. Some will say these changes are a long time coming. The process to “modernize” the rules of golf began in 2012 and was initiated to make the rules easier to understand and less intimidating to all golfers. The existing rules will prevail for the balance of 2018.
While the majority of regulations will remain intact there will be adjustments and revisions to the following rules:
- Dropping Procedure: When taking relief, golfers will now drop from knee height. This will ensure consistency and simplicity of the drop no matter the golfer.
- Searching for a Ball: The amount of time to search for your ball will be reduced from five (5) minutes to three (3) minutes to assist with pace of play.
- Flagstick: A player will be allowed to leave the flagstick in the hole when playing from the putting green. If your ball strikes the flagstick, there will not be a penalty.
- Spike Marks: Players will be able to repair spike marks or other damage to the green without penalty.
- Loose Impediments: Players will be allowed to touch or move loose impediments without penalty in a bunker, as well as “penalty areas” or “water hazards”.
I have to congratulate the ruling bodies of golf, the R&A and USGA, for their serious attempt to streamline the rules of the game. At the same time, they are attempting to drastically reduce the amount of time it takes to play a round of golf, which is often a hang up for many who simply want to enjoy the game. In the end, players will have more responsibility for how they play, and we will rely heavily on the player’s integrity to keep the game honest. I anticipate a very successful outcome.
P.S. I am very indebted to my friend Layne Williams for his assistance in composing this article. Layne is the Senior Director of the Rules & Competitions for the Georgia State Golf Association and is recognized as one of the leading golf rules officials in the United States.