Rules of Golf 2019 – Major Changes Most Relevant to Golfers

The Major Changes in the Rules of Golf 2019 that would have the most interest to golfers


1. Player accidentally moves ball during search.

New Rule: No penalty.

Current Rule: 1-stroke penalty.

2. Player accidentally moves ball or ball-marker on the putting green.

New Rule: No penalty.

Current Rule: 1-stroke penalty (with Exceptions).

3. Standard for deciding whether the player caused his or her ball to move.

New Rule: The player will be found to be the cause only when it is known or virtually certain (meaning at least 95% certain) to be the case.

Current Rule: Weight of the evidence or more likely than not.

4. How to replace a ball lying off the putting green when it moves and its exact original spot is not known.

New Rule: Replace the ball on its estimated spot; if that spot was on , under or against attached natural objects, replace the ball on that spot on, under or against those objects.

Current Rule: Drop the ball as near as possible to the estimated spot.

5. Player’s ball in motion accidentally hits the player, his or her caddie, the person attending the Flagstick or the attended or removed flagstick.

New Rule: No penalty.

Current Rule: 1-stroke penalty (2-stroke penalty when accidental deflection relates to the Flagstick or attendant).

6. Player accidentally hits the ball more than once during a stroke.

New Rule: No penalty.

Current Rule: 1-stroke penalty.

7. Where a ball must be dropped.

New Rule: Drop in a defined relief area.

Current Rule: Sometimes the drop is in a specified area, sometimes it is on or as near as possible to a spot or a line.

8. Where a dropped ball must come to rest.

New Rule: The ball must come to rest in the relief area where it was dropped. If the ball comes to rest outside the relief area, the player will drop a second time in the relief area. If the ball again comes to rest outside the relief area, the player will place it where the ball first touched the ground on the second drop.

Current Rule: The ball must be re-dropped if it rolls to any of the nine specified areas under Rule 20-2c. such as rolling more than 2 club-lengths from where the dropped ball struck the ground.

9. Measuring the size of the relief area where a ball must be dropped and played from.

New Rule: The relief area is measured by measuring 1 or 2 club-lengths, which is defined as the longest club the player has during the round, other than a putter.

Current Rule: Measured by using 1 or 2 club-lengths, with any club the player selects.

10. How to drop a ball.

New Rule: The ball must be dropped straight down from knee height, the height of the player’s knee when in a standing position.

11. Time allowed for a ball search.

New Rule: A ball is lost if not found in three minutes.

Current Rule: a ball is lost if not found in five minutes.

12. Substituting a ball when taking relief.

New Rule: A player may always substitute a ball when taking relief.

Current Rule: a player must use the original ball when taking relief (with exceptions); a substituted ball is allowed only when taking penalty relief.

13. Taking relief for an embedded ball in its own pitch-mark.

New Rule: A player may take relief without penalty for an embedded ball anywhere in the ‘general area’ unless a Local Rule has been adopted restricting relief only to areas cut to fairway height or less (closely-mown).

Current Rule: Relief is only allowed in areas cut to fairway height or less (closely-mown) unless a Local Rules has been adopted allowing relief anywhere (except in sand) ‘through the green’.

14. Replacing a ball on the putting green when it moves from its spot after it has been lifted and replaced.

New Rule: The ball must always be replaced on its original spot, even if it was blown by the wind or moved for no clear reason.

Current Rule: The ball is replaced only if a player or outside agency caused it to move, otherwise, the ball is played from its new location.

15. Repairing damage on the putting green.

New Rule: A player may repair almost any damage (including spike-marks and animal damage but not natural imperfections) on the putting green.

Current Rule: A player may only repair ball-marks or old hole plugs on the putting green.

16. Player touches the line of putt or touches the putting green in pointing out a target.

New Rule: No penalty, so long as doing so does not improve the conditions for the player’s stroke.

Current Rule: Loss of Hole in Match Play or 2-stroke penalty in Stroke Play (with exceptions).

17. Putting with an unattended Flagstick in the hole.

New Rule: No penalty if ball played from the putting green (or anywhere else) hits the unattended flagstick in the hole.

Current Rule: Loss of hole or 2-stroke penalty if the ball is played from the putting green and hits the unattended flagstick in the hole.

18. Areas the committee may mark as a penalty area (where relief with 1-stroke penalty is allowed).

New Rule: Red- and Yellow-marked ‘penalty areas’ may now cover areas of desert, jungle, lava-rock etc. in addition to areas of water.

Current Rule: The Committee may only mark an area of water as a ‘water hazard’.

19. Player moves loose impediments, touches the ground with hand or club or grounds the club in a penalty area when the ball is in the penalty area.

New Rule:  No Penalty.

Current Rule: Loss of hole in match Play or 2-stroke penalty in Stroke Play (with exceptions).

20. Expanded use of red-marked penalty areas.

New Rule: 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).

Current Rule: All water hazards should be marked yellow, except where their location on the course makes it impossible or unreasonable to drop a ball behind the hazard, only when this is the case may these water hazards be marked red as lateral water hazards.

21. Elimination of the opposite side relief option for red-penalty areas.

New Rule: A player is no longer allowed to take relief from a red penalty area on the opposite side from where the ball last entered that penalty area, unless the Committee adopts a Local Rule allowing it.

Current Rule: A player is always allowed to take relief from the opposite side of a red-marked lateral water hazard.

22. Player touches or moves a loose impediment in a bunker when the ball is in the bunker.

New Rule: No penalty.

Current Rule: Loss of hole in Match Play or 2-stroke penalty on Stroke Play (with exceptions).

23. Player touches sand in a bunker with his or her hand or club when the ball is in the bunker.

New Rule: No penalty except when a player touches sand with his her hand or club to test the condition of the bunker, in making a practice swing, with the club in the area right behind or in front of the ball or in making the backswing for the stroke.

Current Rule: Any touching of the sand with hand or club results in loss of hole in Match Play or 2-dtroke penalty in Stroke Play (with exceptions).

24. Unplayable ball in a bunker relief option.

New Rule: A player may take relief outside the bunker back on the line from the hole through where the ball was at rest for 2 penalty strokes.

Current Rule: No relief outside the bunker, other than in playing from where the player’s  last stroke was made.

25. Use of clubs damaged during a round..

New Rule: A player may keep using any damaged club, no matter the nature or cause of the damage, even if the player damaged it in anger.

Current Rule: A player may use a damaged club only if it was damaged in the ‘normal course of play’.

26. Adding clubs to replace a club damaged during a round.

New Rule: A player may not replace a damaged club, unlessthe player was not responsible for the damage.

Current Rule: A player a damaged club if it is unfit for play and was damaged in the normal course of play.

27. Use of Distance Measuring Devices (DMDs).

New Rule: The use of DMDs is allowed, unless a Local Rule has been adopted prohibiting their use.

Current Rule: DMD use is prohibited unless a Local Rule has been adopted allowing their use.

28. Caddie standing behind a player to help with the player’s alignment.

New Rule: A caddie is not allowed to deliberately stand on or close to the extended line behind a player while the player is taking his/her stance, until the stroke is made.

Current Rule: A caddie is allowed to stand on a line behind a player while the player is taking his/her stance and preparing to play, but must not stand there while the player makes the stroke..

29. Caddie lifts and replaces the player’s ball on the putting green.

New Rule: A caddie may lift and replace the player’s ball on the putting green without the player’s specific authorisation to do so.

Current Rule: 1-stroke penalty if done without the player’s specific authorisation.

30. Recommendations on how to play promptly.

New Rule: Recommends that players make each stroke in no more than 40 seconds, and usually in less time.

Current Rule: No recommendations are given.

31. Playing out of turn in Stroke Play.

New Rule: No penalty and ‘Ready Golf’ is encouraged when it can be done in a safe and responsible way.

Current Rule: No penalty, but the current rule is written in a way that may imply that playing out of turn is wrong or is not allowed.

32. Other changes to help pace of play.

New Rule: Other new rules: Reduced time to search, allowing more areas to be marked as penalty areas, expanded use of red penalty areas, the simplified dropping procedure and allowing a player to putt with the flagstick in the hole.

33. New alternative form of Stroke Play.

New Rule: A new ‘Maximum Score’ form of Stroke Play is recognised, where a player’s score for a hole is capped at a maximum score (such as twice par, a fixed number or nett double bogey) that is set by the Committee.

Current Rule: In standard individual Stroke Play, players must hole out at every hole; the only recognised alternative forms of stroke play where holing out is not required are Stableford,Par and Bogey.

34. Playing in the Spirit of the Game.

New Rule: Explains and reinforces the high standards of conduct expected from players and gives Committees the discretion to disqualify players for misconduct.

Current Rule: The rules set out no standards of conduct, except indirectly in giving Committees discretion to disqualify players for a serious breach of etiquette.

35. Code of Player Conduct.

New Rule: Committees are given authority to adopt their own code of player conduct and to set penalties for the breach of the standards in that code.

Current Rule: Committees may disqualify players for a serious breach of etiquette, but are not allowed to impose lesser penalties such as a 1-stroke penalty or a loss of hole or 2-stroke penalty.

36. Eliminating  announcement requirements before lifting a ball under certain Rules.

New Rule: When a player has good reason to mark and lift a ball to identify it, check for damage or see if it les in a condition where relief is allowed (such as to see whether it is embedded), the player is no longer required first to announce to another player or his/her marker the intent to do so or to give that person an opportunity to observe the process.

Current Rule: Before lifting a ball, the player must announce to another player or the marker that he/she is doing so and allow that person to observe the process.

37. Player’s reasonable judgement in estimating and measuring under a rule.

New Rule: When determining a spot, point, line, area or other location under a Rule, a player’s reasonable judgement will not be second-guessed based on later evidence, e.g. video reviews, if the player did all that could be reasonably expected under the circumstances to make an accurate estimation or measurement.

Current Rule: A player’s judgement is given no particular weight or deference; the Committee decides any issue about the accuracy or the estimation or measurement based on a review of the facts.

38. Playing a provisional ball.

New Rule: A player may play a provisional ball, provided it is not out of bounds or lost in a penalty area, at any time before the 3-minute search time is exhausted and the ball deemed lost. (This means that even if a player has walked forward to look for his/her ball, feeling that it may not be found s/he may walk back to play a provisional ball from the spot where s/he last played from provided the 3-minute search time has not been exceeded). If the ball is found within the time, the provisional ball must be abandoned an play continue with the original ball.

Current Rule: A player must play the provisional ball before she or he or her or  his partner goes forward to search for the original ball.