Rules of Golf 2019 – Brief Introduction


 The R&A and USGA undertook a revision (Modernisation) of the Rules of Golf in order to make them easier to understand, be more consistent and help to improve the pace-of-play, with the intention of shortening the time it takes to play a round of golf and make the game more enjoyable.

In doing this they have reduced the number of rules of golf from 34 to 24, which is good but in so doing they have also introduced over 100 changes, not including the changes to Rule numbers and references.

No golfer can be expected to know or learn all these changes before January 2019, so I have listed here the key rule changes that I think you should be immediately aware of.

The New Rules of Golf 2019 will take effect on Midnight 31st December 2018.

Some video demonstrations can be viewed by following the link at the end of this post.

The key rule changes include:

New Definitions
Penalty Area
– an area from which relief with a 1-shot penalty is allowed (formerly ‘Water Hazard’). Still defined as either yellow or red (lateral).

General Area – anywhere on the course except Teeing area of the hole being played, Penalty areas, Bunkers and Greens (formerly ‘Through the Green’)

Temporary Water – formerly ‘Casual Water’

Natural Forces – wind, water or effects of gravity

Relief Area – area where a player must drop a ball depending on the relief rule being used

Club-length – length of the longest club in a player’s bag, excluding the putter

  • Standards of Player Conduct (Rule 1.2)

Players expected to play with integrity and in the spirit of the Game. Players are responsible for applying rules to themselves. A player must call a penalty on her/himself should another person take an action that would breach a rule if taken by the player or the player sees another person about to take an action concerning the player’s ball that s/he knows would breach the rules if taken by the player and does not take reasonable steps to object or stop the action from happening (Rule 1.3c)

  • Elimination of “Ball Moved” Penalties (Rule 13.1d)
    There will be no penalty for accidentally moving a ball on the putting green or in searching for a ball.
  • Relaxed Putting Green Rules (Rule 13)
    There will be no penalty if a ball played from the putting green hits an unattended flagstick. Players may repair old hole plugs (but not aeration holes or natural imperfections), spike marks and other damage made by shoes, animals and maintenance procedures. There is no penalty for touching the line of putt. Interference by a ‘wrong green’ now includes the player’s stance.

If any part of a ball is in the hole below the surface of the putting green, the ball is holed

  • Relaxed Rules for Penalty Areas (Rule 17)
    Expanded use of red penalty areas, where lateral relief is allowed; and there will be no penalty for moving loose impediments or touching the ground or water in a Penalty Area.
  • Relaxed Bunker Rules (Rule 12)
    There will be no penalty for moving loose impediments (stones, leaves, etc.) in a bunker or for generally touching the sand with a hand or club (but not directly in front of or behind the ball). An extra relief option is added for an unplayable ball, allowing the ball to be played from outside the bunker with a two-stroke penalty.
  • Pace-of-play Support (Rule 5.6)
    Reduced time for searching for a lost ball (from five minutes to three); encouragement of “ready golf” in Stroke Play (will need a Local Rule to adopt a Pace of Play Policy if this is to be enforceable). Players may also agree to play out of turn in Match Play.
  • Simplified Way of Taking Relief (Rule 14)
    A new procedure for taking relief by dropping a ball in and playing it from a specific ‘Relief Area’; relaxed procedures for dropping a ball, allowing the ball to be dropped from knee height.
  • Provisional BallIf a ball might be lost outside a penalty area or be out of bounds, to save time the player may play another ball provisionally under penalty of stroke and distance (see Rule 14.6). This also applies when the original ball has not been found and identified and is not yet lost. a player may walk back to where s/he last played the ball from and if still within 3-minute search time may play a provisional ball.
  • Alternative to Stroke & Distance (Rule 14.6)

An option for a Club to adopt a Local Rule permitting committees to allow golfers the option to drop the ball in the vicinity of where the ball is lost or out of bounds under a two-stroke penalty. It addresses concerns raised at the club level about the negative impact on pace of play when a player is required to go back under stroke and distance. The Local Rule (Model Local Rule E-5) is not intended for higher levels of play, such as professional or elite level competitions.

Other changes:

  • The honour on a hole is determined by the player with the lowest gross score in Medal Play or highest points score in Stableford on the previous hole.
  • A player no longer needs to announce to the other players in the group when s/he are lifting a ball to identify it or to determine if it is in an abnormal condition
  • A ball may be marked using any artificial object or by holding a club behind or to the side of the ball, but may not be marked with a loose impediment
  • Any object used to mark the position of a ball MUST be removed before playing the ball; if ball played with a marker still in place a 1-stroke penalty will be incurred
  • Natural objects may be moved to see if they are loose or unattached. If they are found to be attached, they must be replaced as close as possible to their original position.
  • No penalty for a multiple hit, provided the ball has been struck fairly.
  • No penalty if a ball in motion accidentally hits the player, another player, or their equipment or caddie.
  • Relief for an embedded ball is available anywhere in the General Area.
  • There is no longer “other side relief” from red penalty areas, unless revoked by a Local Rule (Model Local Rule B-2)
  • A player will be allowed to keep using and/or to repair any club damaged during the round, no matter what the damage and even if the player damaged it in anger.
  • A player is not be allowed to replace a damaged club, except when it is damaged during the round by an outside influence or by someone other than the player or caddie.


Click HERE to go to the Rules of Golf Modernisation website which contains detailed descriptions, documents and videos about the changes, as well as a link to download a 2019 Rules app for iOS and Android devices

I will look at the Rules of Golf in more detail in future posts

Enjoy your game!


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