Are you 2019 Rules of Golf Ready?
Preparation by Clubs or Committees for 2019 Changes to the Rules of Golf
The R&A and the USGA have announced many changes to the Rules of Golf to come into effect on 1 January 2019.
They represent the most substantial Rules overhaul since 1984. Because of the amount of reform, this modernisation of the Rules of Golf is likely to require at least some degree of change by every Golf Club.
I will consider the categories of information that I think golf clubs should be considering to ensure they are 2019 Rules-ready and would encourage the appropriate person or committee within a club to consider this information as a part of their planning for the transition to the new Rules. I hope to provide further information and updates between now and 1st January 2019 as it becomes available.
Matters for a club to consider or be aware of are:
1. Scorecard ordering
- When ordering scorecards clubs should be mindful that at least some of their local rules will change on 1st January 2019. Note: There will be no requirement for clubs to stop using any pre-2019 scorecards come 1st January 2019. Supplies of old scorecards can continue to be used until they have been exhausted (provided players in competitions operate under 2019-compliant local rules).
The R&A “Committee Toolkit” feature will include a Local Rules “creator” which will allow committees to select the Model Local Rules they need to create the Local Rules sheet for their course and to pass on to their score card printer. [The R&A advised this would be at least partially functional by the week of 10-14 September.2
2. Whether to use the new stroke-and-distance local rule
- Significant issues with pace of play can result from players needing to take stroke-and- distance relief for a ball that is out of bounds or cannot be found when a provisional ball has not been played. As a result, The R&A has made available a new stroke-and- distance Local Rule. The purpose of this new Local Rule is to allow a Committee to provide an extra relief option that will allow a player to play on without returning to the location of the previous stroke.
- This option allows the player to drop in a large area between the point where the ball is estimated to have come to rest or gone out of bounds and the edge of the fairway that is not nearer the hole.
- The player gets two penalty strokes when using this relief option, so the relief is comparable to what could have been achieved if the player had taken stroke-and- distance relief.
- The Local Rule is appropriate for general play where golfers are playing casual rounds or playing their own competitions. The Local Rule is not appropriate for competitions limited to highly-skilled players (that is, professional competitions and elite amateur competitions). Clubs may choose to operate it only on a specific hole or holes. For holes with features that make it unusually difficult to establish a relief option, a club may choose to use dropping zones in addition to the new stroke-and-distance local rule option.
- Events such as corporate days will generally be well-suited to this new Local Rule option. However, it would be permissible for it to be adopted for use in any club competition.
More detailed guidance on the new stroke-and-distance Local Rule will be available upon the release of the Committee Procedures resource.
3. Whether to mark any new ‘penalty areas’
- The Rules for ‘penalty areas’ (currently called ‘water hazards’) will be relaxed.
- Under the new Rules, red and yellow-marked penalty areas may cover areas of desert, jungle, rough that is deep and thick, etc.
- As is currently the case with red and yellow hazards, penalty areas under the new Rules must still be clearly and accurately marked or defined.
- Committees will now have the discretion to mark all penalty areas as red so that lateral relief is always allowed (but they may still mark penalty areas as yellow where they consider it appropriate). Under the 2019 Rules The R&A encourages committees to mark most penalty areas red to give players the additional option of lateral relief. However, where part of the challenge of the hole is to carry over a penalty area such as a stream that crosses the front of the putting green and there is a good chance that a ball that carries over the stream could fall back into it, the committee can decide to mark the penalty area as yellow.
4. Whether to bring in a local rule permitting lateral relief on opposite side of penalty area
- The new Rules of golf give a player, the option to take lateral relief or back-on-the-line relief based on where his or her ball last crossed the edge of a red penalty area. But in some cases (for example, due to the location of the red penalty area right next to a course boundary), those options may leave the player with no reasonable option other than to take stroke-and-distance relief.
- A Committee can introduce a Local Rule to allow lateral relief on the opposite side of the red penalty area as an extra relief option under Rule 17.1d.
When considering a Local Rule to allow additional relief:
- The Committee should consider introducing the Local Rule in situations when a player could be seriously disadvantaged if it was not introduced. Two such examples are:
- Where a boundary coincides with the edge of a penalty area down the side of a hole such that if a ball last crossed into the penalty area on the boundary side, the player would be likely to have no realistic relief option other than to play again under stroke and distance.
- Where the layout of the penalty area is such that there could be doubt as to where the ball last crossed into the penalty area and the decision on which side of the penalty area the ball last crossed has a considerable impact on where to take relief. This applies if a relatively narrow penalty area is bounded by bushes or thick rough on one side and fairway on the other.
- It is recommended that the Committee specify the location of specific penalty areas that the Local Rule applies to, rather than applying it to all red penalty areas on the course. This Local Rule should not be used to allow a player to use this opposite side relief option to get across a red penalty area to a more favourable location than is available if only normal lateral relief under Rule 17.1d is used and available.
- It may also be desirable to mark the penalty areas where this option is available in a special way such as putting a different coloured top on any stakes where the extra option is available, and this should be stated in the Local Rule.
- Instead of using this Local Rule, the Committee may decide to put one or more dropping zones in place (see Model Local Rule E-1)
5. Whether to bring into effect a Code of Conduct for on-course activity with penalties that apply to a player’s competition score
- Under the new Rules, committees are given authority to adopt their own code of player conduct and to set penalties for a breach of the standards in that code.
- A code of conduct will be able to provide for the application of any of the following penalties: warning, 1 stroke, 2 strokes (in Stableford or Par or stroke play), loss of hole (in match play), disqualification.
Examples of the type of player activity that may attract penalties under this new code of conduct capability include: failure to rake bunkers, failure to repair divots, failure to repair ball damage on a green, failure to adhere to required dress standards, etc.
- Detailed guidance is be available under the Committee Procedures resource (see item B6). Note that I recommend that a Code of Conduct should apply both to members and Visitors.
6. Whether to bring in a Pace of Play Policy
- The new Rules of Golf recommend a Committee Pace of Play Policy. To encourage and enforce prompt play, the Committee should adopt a Local Rule setting a Pace of Play Policy.
- This Policy may set a maximum time to complete a round, a hole or series of holes and a stroke, and it may set penalties for not following the Policy.
See Committee Procedures, Section 5G (recommendations on contents of Pace of Play Policy).
7. New permission under the Rules to officially return scores digitally.
- Under the existing Rules, the only permitted method for a player to officially return a competition score to the committee is on a paper (or cardboard) scorecard. From 1 January 2019, the Rules will allow committees to provide players with a digital submission option (or options) for the official return of scores.
- It will be acceptable under the Rules for committees to permit each competitor to choose whether they submit their score digitally or on a paper scorecard. It will also be acceptable for committees to choose to accept paper scorecards only.
- This may not apply to majority of clubs in the UK
8. Introduction of new stroke play format – Maximum Hole Score.
- Under the existing Rules of Golf, a competitor in a stroke play competition (ie medal play competition) is required to hole out on every hole or they will be disqualified. ‘Maximum Score’ stroke play is an official new competition format that will be available to clubs from 1 January 2019 in addition to regular stroke play.
- Under this new format a club will be permitted to set its own maximum score for a hole (eg 10, or 2 x par of hole, or net quadruple bogey, etc). If a player doesn’t finish a hole, or has more than the maximum score, they must be credited for competition purposes with whatever the committee has set as the maximum score (for handicapping purposes the player would be credited with whatever their Stableford score would have been for that hole).
- It will not be mandatory for ISV Handicap Systems to offer functionality to support the new ‘Maximum Score’ competition format. At this stage it is unclear how attractive this option will be to golf clubs or how many have already expressed an interest to the R&A in this new format – probably with a view to trying to make medal play days a more attractive proposition for beginners and other high-handicap players.
- Clubs will have to await advice from their ISV on the potential availability of functionality to support the new ‘Maximum Score’ competition format. I anticipate this advice will be provided in the coming weeks. I don’t think It will be mandatory for providers to offer ‘Maximum Score’ functionality to Golf Clubs
I hope this advice is of some help.
Enjoy your Golf!