Clarifications of the 2019 Rules of Golf
Updated April 9 2019
The USGA and The R&A have provided a clarification that introduces a Local Rule, allowing players to replace a broken or significantly damaged club, except in cases of abuse.
Under the Local Rule, a club is “broken or significantly damaged” if it meets the following conditions:
- the shaft breaks into pieces, splinters or is bent (but not when the shaft is only dented)
- the club face impact area is visibly deformed (but not when the club face is only scratched)
- the clubhead is visibly and significantly deformed
- the clubhead is detached or loose from the shaft or
- the grip is loose
However, a player is not allowed to replace his or her club solely because there is a crack in the club face or clubhead.
Committees can begin using this Local Rule immediately.
The R&A and USGA have also decided that Clarifications will normally be updated on a quarterly basis in January, April, July and October.
The next quarterly update will be in early July 2019.
1. Reference Point for Back-On-the-Line Relief Must Be Outside Penalty Area
Model Local Rule G-9
2. Local Rule G-9 Replacing Club that is Broken or Significantly Damaged
1. Playing From a Wrong Place Is Related to Causing the Ball to Move:
If a player moves his or her ball in play in breach of Rule 9.4 and plays it from its new location rather than replacing it, the player gets only the general penalty under Rule 14.7 for playing from a wrong place. The act of moving the ball in breach of Rule 9.4 is related to playing from a wrong place in breach of Rule 14.7. (Added 12/2018)
See the Committee Procedures section at end of this document for MLR G-9 Replacement of Broken or Significantly Damaged Clubs
1. Club Taken Out of Play Must Not Be Used During That Round:
If an extra club was taken out of play before a round and carried during the round, or a club was taken out of play during the round, it must not be used for the remainder of that round. This includes a situation where a player is allowed to replace a club, and is an additional restriction in Rule 4.1b(4). (Added 12/2018)
1. First Breach Happens When First Stroke Made:
The penalty for the first breach of Rule 5.2 applies when a player commits a single act (such as making a stroke). The disqualification penalty for the second breach applies when that player commits any subsequent act that is not allowed (such as rolling a ball or making another stroke). These are not treated as related acts under Rule 1.3c(4). (Added 12/2018)
1. Meaning of “Begins Taking a Stance for the Stroke”:
Rule 10.2b(4) does not allow a player to have his or her caddie deliberately stand on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball for any reason when the player begins taking a stance for the stroke. Reference to “the stroke” means the stroke that is actually made.
The player begins to take the stance for the stroke that is actually made when he or she has at least one foot in position for that stance.
If a player backs away from the stance, he or she has not taken a stance for the stroke that is actually made, and the second bullet point in Rule 10.2b(4) does not apply.
Therefore, if a player takes a stance when the caddie is deliberately standing on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball, there is no penalty under Rule 10.2b(4) if the player backs away from the stance and does not begin to take a stance for the stroke that is actually made until after the caddie has moved out of that location. This applies anywhere on the course.
Backing away means that the player’s feet or body are no longer in a position where helpful guidance on aiming at the intended target line could be given. (Added 2/2019)
2. Examples of Caddie Not Deliberately Standing Behind Ball When Player Begins Taking Stance for Stroke
Rule 10.2b(4) does not allow a player to have his or her caddie deliberately stand on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball for any reason when the player begins taking a stance for the stroke.
The use of the term “deliberately” requires the caddie to be aware that (1) the player is beginning to take a stance for the stroke to be played, and (2) he or she is standing on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball.
If the caddie is unaware of either of these two things, the caddie’s action is not deliberate and Rule 10.2b(4) does not apply.
Examples of when a caddie’s action is not considered to be deliberate include when:
– The caddie is raking a bunker or taking some similar action to care for the course and is not aware that he or she is doing so on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball.
– The player makes a stroke and the ball comes to rest near the hole and the player walks up and taps the ball into the hole while the caddie is unaware he or she is standing on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball.
– The caddie is standing on an extension of the line of play behind the ball but, when the player moves in to begin taking a stance, the caddie is facing away from the player or looking in a different direction and is unaware the player has begun to take his or her stance.
– The caddie is engaged in a task (such as obtaining a yardage) and is unaware that the player has begun to take the stance.
But, in the examples given above, when the caddie becomes aware that the player has already begun to take a stance for the stroke to be played and he or she is standing on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball, the caddie needs to make every effort to move out of the way.
Common acts that caddies take unrelated to the player setting up to the ball, such as checking to see if a player’s club will hit a tree, whether the player has interference from a cart path or holding an umbrella over a player’s head before the stroke, are not treated as deliberate actions under Rule 10.2b(4). After helping the player with such an act, there is no penalty so long as the caddie moves away before the stroke is made.
If either the player or caddie is attempting to circumvent the primary purpose of Rule 10.2b(4), which is to ensure that aiming at the intended target is a challenge that the player must overcome alone, the caddie’s actions are treated as being deliberate. (Added 2/2019)
3. Alignment Help Before Player Has Begun Taking Stance for Stroke:
Interpretation 10.2b(4)/1 explains that the primary purpose of Rule 10.2b(4) is to ensure that aiming at the intended target is a challenge that the player must overcome alone.
In a situation where a player has not yet begun to take his or her stance for the stroke but:
– the player’s feet or body are close to a position where useful guidance on aiming could be given and
– the caddie is deliberately standing on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball,
the player is treated as having begun to take a stance for the stroke (even though his or her feet are not in that position) only if the caddie gives the player help with alignment.
If alignment help is given but the player backs away before making the stroke and the caddie moves out from behind the line of play, there is no breach of the Rule. This applies anywhere on the course.
Alignment help includes when the caddie gives help by standing behind the player and moving away without saying anything but, by doing so, is giving a signal to the player that he or she is correctly aimed at the intended target. (Added 2/2019)
1. Caddie May Lift Ball When Player Will Take Relief:
So long as it is reasonable to conclude that the player is taking relief under a Rule, his or her caddie is treated as being given authorization to lift the ball and may do so without penalty. (Added 12/2018)
1. How To Apply Exception 2 to Rule 11.1b:
Exception 2 to Rule 11.1b is to be applied using the “known or virtually certain” standard. Therefore, if there is knowledge or conclusive evidence that the ball played from the putting green accidentally hit a person, animal or movable obstruction on the putting green, the stroke does not count. (Added 12/2018)
2. Living Insects Are Animals:
Exception 2 to Rule 11.1b applies to living insects since they are animals. (Added 12/2018)
1. Status of Damage From Hail:
Damage on the putting green caused by hail may be repaired. (Added 12/2018)
1. Tee Is Player’s Equipment:
A tee that is being used by the player, or is being carried by the player or his or her caddie, is the player’s equipment (such as a tee marking the reference point). (Added 12/2018)Rule 14.3d:
1. Penalty for Deliberately Deflecting or Stopping Dropped Ball Always Applies:
If a player drops a ball in the right way and deliberately deflects that ball before it comes to rest in breach of Rule 14.3d, the player must drop a ball again.
When doing so, the player is not considered to be correcting a mistake under Rule 14.5b(3) and gets the general penalty under Rule 14.3d. (Added 12/2018)
1. Player Not Penalized When Improvement Has No Effect on Relief Area Ball Played From:
If a player improves the relief area but drops the ball in a wrong way, the player would get no penalty under Rule 8.1a if he or she dropped in the right way in a different relief area so long as the improvement did not also improve the relief area that the player played from. (Added 12/2018)
1. Meaning of “Clearly Unreasonable to Play Ball” When Deciding If Relief Is Allowed:
The purpose of Rule 16.1a(3) is to prevent a player from obtaining free relief when it is clearly unreasonable for him or her to make a stroke because of interference by something from which free relief is not available. But it does not apply, for example, if a player’s ball is embedded in the general area and he or she is standing on an immovable obstruction. In this case, the player may take relief from either condition unless relief is unreasonable because of something other than either condition. (Added 12/2018)
1. Player Not Always Allowed to Take Embedded Ball Relief:
If a player’s ball is embedded in the general area but neither the reference point nor any part of the course within one club-length of the reference point is in the general area, the player is not allowed to take free relief under Rule 16.3b.
For example, free relief is not allowed if:
– a ball is embedded at the very base of the lip, wall or face above a bunker,
– the spot right behind the ball is in the bunker and
– within one club-length of and not nearer the hole from that reference point, there is no part of the relief area that is in the general area. (Added 12/2018)
1. Reference Point for Back-On-the-Line Relief Must Be Outside Penalty Area:
When taking back-on-the-line relief from a penalty area, the reference point must be outside that penalty area. (Added 04/2019)
1. Advice Giver Must Not Deliberately Stand Behind Player:
If an advice giver deliberately stands behind a player from when he or she starts to take a stance, if the player asks or authorizes the advice giver to do this, he or she gets the general penalty under Rule 10.2b(4) – see Rule 1.3c(1), first bullet point.
If the player did not ask or authorize the advice giver to stand in that location but knows that this is not allowed and does not take reasonable steps to object or stop it from happening, the player gets the general penalty under Rule 10.2b(4) – see Rule 1.3c(1), second bullet point. (Added 12/2018)
1. Meaning of “Club-Length” When Playing with Partner:
In partner forms of play, either partner’s longest club, except a putter, may be used for defining the teeing area or determining the size of a relief area. (Added 12/2018)
1. Determining Whether Ball in Relief Area:
When determining whether a ball has come to rest within a relief area (i.e. either one or two club-lengths from the reference point depending on the Rule being applied), the ball is in the relief area if any part of the ball is within the one or two club-length measurement. However, a ball is not in a relief area if any part of the ball is nearer the hole than the reference point or when any part of the ball has interference from the condition from which free relief is taken. (Added 12/2018)
Model Local Rule B-2:
1. Point on Opposite Edge Must Not Cross Another Area of the Course:
With the Model Local Rule in use, if the straight line from the edge where the ball last crossed into the penalty area to the other edge that is an equal distance from the hole crosses outside the penalty area, the player is not allowed to use that opposite point. (Added 12/2018)
Model Local Rule F-5:
1. Immovable Obstruction Is Not Required to Be in General Area:
In relation to the location of the immovable obstruction, the term “within two club-lengths of the putting green” includes an immovable obstruction that is on the putting green. (Added 12/2018)
Model Local Rule G-9:
1. Local Rule G-9 for Replacement of Club that is Broken or Significantly Damaged
Model Local Rule G-9
“Rule 4.1b(3) is modified in this way:
If a player’s club is “broken or significantly damaged” during the round by the player or caddie, except in cases of abuse, the player may replace the club with any club under Rule 4.1b(4).
When replacing a club, the player must immediately take the broken or significantly damaged club out of play, using the procedure in Rule 4.1c(1).
For the purposes of this Local Rule:
• A club is “broken or significantly damaged” when:
➢ the shaft breaks into pieces, splinters or is bent (but not when the shaft is only dented)
➢ the club face impact area is visibly deformed (but not when the club face is only scratched)
➢ the clubhead is visibly and significantly deformed
➢ the clubhead is detached or loose from the shaft, or
➢ the grip is loose.
Exception: A club face or clubhead is not “broken or significantly damaged” solely because it is cracked.
Penalty for Breach of Local Rule – See Rule 4.1b.” (Added 4/2019)
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