2019 Rules of Golf – FAQs

2019 Rules of Golf- FAQS

With the New Rules of Golf 2019, I expect you will have many questions about them and situations you may find yourself in while playing a round of golf, or generally discussing the vagaries of the Game of Golf in the Clubhouse with your friends. I hope that 2019 Rules of Golf – FAQs will provide you with all your answers.

If you need a quick answer about a rule, you can get it here,  by clicking on a subject below when you will be directed to the USGA 2019 Rules of Golf Webpage and links to some Videos are also included at the end of the list.

Why the USGA Website; because the R&A have not published anything as informative and the Rules of Golf are Universal having been agreed by both the R&A and USGA?

The list is not exhaustive, but I hope it covers most of your initial questions.

I have included some other FAQs that are not specifically covered by the USGA Webpage and hope to update the list as time goes on and I receive more questions as you play Golf under the 2019 Rules of Golf.

Fairways and Rough (General Area)

Starting the Hole (Teeing Area)


Penalty Areas

Putting Green

Match Play

Stroke Play


Golf Ball

Making a Stroke

Ball Moved or Deflected


Abnormal Course Conditions (Including Immovable Obstructions)

Embedded Ball

Loose Impediments

Unplayable Ball

Out of Bounds


Order of Play/Ready Golf

Other Items Covered in the 2019 Rules of Golf

Maximum Score

2019 Rule: “Maximum Score” will be a new, additional form of stroke play:

A player’s score for each hole is capped at a maximum set by the Committee, which may be fixed (such as 6, 8, 10, etc.), related to par (such as two times par or triple bogey), or related to the player’s handicap (such as net double bogey).

  • A player who does not complete a hole (often referred to informally as “picking up”) will not be disqualified, but simply gets the maximum score for the hole.

Alternative to Stroke and Distance Relief

2019 Local Rule: A new local rule will provide an alternative to stroke and distance relief for a ball that is lost outside a penalty area or out of bounds

  • For two penalty strokes, the player may take relief by dropping the original ball or a substituted ball in the vicinity of the spot where a ball is considered to be lost or went Out of Bounds. relief area.

Some video links to help better bring the Rules of Golf – 2019 to life.

Insisting on High Standards of Conduct and Trusting Player Integrity

Playing in the spirit of the game: New provisions are added to reinforce the high standards of conduct expected from all players on the course and the Committee’s discretion to disqualify players for serious misconduct.
Code of player conduct: Committees are given authority to adopt their own code of player conduct and to set penalties for the breach of standards in that code.
Elimination of need to announce intent to lift ball: When you have good reason to lift your ball to identify it, to see if it is cut or cracked or to see if you are entitled to relief (such as to see if the ball is embedded), you are no longer required first to announce to another player or your marker that you intend to do so or to give that person an opportunity to observe the process.
Reasonable judgment standard: When you need to estimate or measure a spot, point, line, area or other location under a Rule, your reasonable judgment will not be second-guessed based on later evidence (such as video review) if you did all that could reasonably be expected under the circumstances to estimate or measure accurately.

Penalty Areas

Penalty areas expanded beyond water hazards: Allowing committees to designate “penalty areas” (currently called water hazards) for areas that don’t contain water and to mark all penalty areas as red (so that lateral relief is always allowed) if they choose to do so.
Expanded use of red penalty areas: Committees are given 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).
Elimination of opposite side relief option: You are no longer allowed to take relief from a red penalty area on the opposite side from where the ball last entered the penalty area (unless a Committee adopts a Local Rule allowing it).
Touching or removing loose impediments or touching ground in a penalty area: There is no longer a penalty if you touch or move loose impediments (such as leaves, stones and sticks) or touch the ground or water with your hand or your club in a penalty area. You can also make practice swings that touch the ground.

Ball at Rest

Accidentally moving your ball while searching for it: There is no longer a penalty. Replace the ball in the original / estimated spot and condition.
Standard for deciding if you caused your ball to move: You will be found to have caused your ball to move only if that is known or virtually certain that it is at least 95% likely that you were the cause – and you will incur a 1 stoke penalty. Otherwise simply play the ball from the new location. (except on green)
Replacing Ball When Original Spot is Not Known: You must replace the ball on its estimated original spot (rather than drop the ball at that spot); and if the estimated spot was on, under or against growing, attached or fixed objects (such as grass), you must replace the ball on, under or against those objects.

Ball in Motion Accidentally Deflected

Your ball in motion accidentally hits you, your equipment, your caddie, someone attending the flagstick for you or a removed or attended flagstick: There is no longer a penalty such as when your ball bounces off a bunker face and hits you. But you can’t deliberately use equipment as a back stop or to deflect the ball.

Ball Struck More Than Once

Accidentally hitting your ball more than once during a stroke: There will be no penalty and the ball will be played as it lies.

Lost Ball

Reduced time for ball search: A ball is lost if not found in three minutes (rather than the current five minutes) after you begin searching for it.

Taking Relief

Where a dropped ball must come to rest: Your ball must come to rest in the relief area, within 1 club length of the drop point (think of half circle) where it was dropped, or else it must be re-dropped.

New dropping procedure: Likely you will only need 1 drop. Your ball must be let go from knee height and fall through the air without touching any part of your body or equipment. If you forget and drop from shoulder height, simply drop again.

Longest club is used to measure the relief area: You use the longest club in your bag, other than a putter, to measure the relief area.

Taking relief in Red penalty areas: In taking lateral relief, you will drop within two club-lengths of where your ball entered the penalty area, not on the opposite side unless your your Golf Club has introduced a Local Rule, either generally for all Red Penalty Areas or for specific Red Penalty Areas, allowing relief on the opposite side of the Penalty Area
Taking Back-on-the-Line Relief: dropping procedure will be in a specific “relief area”

Model Local Rule: Alternative to Stroke and Distance for a Ball That is Lost or Out of Bounds

A new Local Rule will provide an alternative to stroke-and-distance relief for a ball that is lost outside a penalty area or out of bounds.

Note: this rule cannot be used if you have already hit a provisional ball

Embedded Ball

Relief for embedded ball in the general area: You may take relief if your ball is embedded anywhere (except in sand) in the general area (which is the new term for “through the green”), except where a Local Rule restricts relief to the fairway or similar areas (this reverses the default position in the current Rules).

Damaged Ball

Substituting another ball for a cut or cracked ball: You may substitute another ball if your ball in play on a hole has become cut or cracked while playing that hole; but you are no longer allowed to change balls solely because the ball has become “out of shape.”

Damaged Clubs

Use of damaged clubs: You may keep using any club that is damaged during the round, no matter how it happens (for example, even if you damaged it in anger).
Replacement of damaged clubs: You may not replace a damaged club, unless you were not responsible for causing the damage.

Distance-Measuring Devices

DMDs allowed: You may use DMDs to measure distance, except when prohibited by Local Rule (this reverses the default position in the current Rules).

Putting Green

Putting with flagstick left in the hole: There is no longer a penalty if you play a ball from the putting green and it hits the unattended flagstick in the hole.
Repairing damage on the putting green: You may repair almost all damage (including spike marks and animal damage) on the putting green (rather than being limited to repairing only ball-marks or old hole plugs). You must not improve your line of play other than damage.
Touching your line of putt or touching the putting green in pointing out target: There is no longer a penalty if you or your caddie does either of these things, so long as doing so does not improve the conditions affecting your stroke.
Accidentally moving your ball or ball-marker when it is on the putting green: There is no longer a penalty. Whether you moved it accidentally with your club or foot or ball marker. Simply replace the ball in original spot or estimated spot.
Replacing your ball if it moves after you had already marked, lifted and replaced it: Anytime this happens on the putting green, you replace the ball on its spot – even if it was blown by the wind or moved for no clear reason. No penalty
Your caddie marks and lifts your ball on the putting green: There is no longer a penalty if your caddie does this without your specific authorisation to do so.

Alignment for a Stroke

Expanded restriction on caddie help with alignment: Your caddie or your partner are not allowed to stand on a line behind you from the time you begin taking your stance until you have made your stroke.

Promoting Faster Pace of Play

Encouraging you to play promptly: It is recommended that you make each stroke in no more than 40 seconds – and usually more quickly than that. Prepare in advance for each stroke. Move at a good pace between strokes and holes
Playing out of turn in stroke play (“Ready Golf”) This has always been allowed without penalty, and now you are affirmatively encouraged to do so in a safe and responsible way for convenience or to save time.
New alternative form of stroke play: The Rules recognise a new “Maximum Score” form of stroke play, where your score for a hole is capped at a maximum (such as double par or triple bogey) set by the Committee, so that you can pick up and move to the next hole when your score will be at or above the maximum.


Removal of special restrictions on moving loose impediments: There is no longer a penalty if you touch or move loose impediments in a bunker.
Relaxed restrictions on touching the sand with your hand or club when your ball is in a bunker: You are now prohibited only from touching the sand (1) with your hand or club to test the condition of the bunker, (2) with your club in the area right behind or in front of the ball or (3) when making a practice swing or the backswing for your stroke.
Unplayable ball in a bunker – relief option: Extra option – for two penalty strokes, you may take relief outside the bunker by dropping a ball back on the line from the hole through where your ball was at rest in the bunker.