Author: Keri Schmit

Effective January 1, 2019 the New Rules of Golf 2019 will go into effect.
It’s been six years in the making since The Rules of Golf has changed and in less than six months, the new, modernized version of the Rules of Golf that will go into effect Jan. 1, 2019.
With the objective of making the Rules easier to understand and apply, the result is a reduction in number from 34 to 24 and a reorganization that consolidates principles and simplifies the overall language to make it more practical to current golfers and more accessible to newcomers.
The rules covered here are organized into eight categories and some proposed changes could be listed in multiple categories, each only appears once in the category most reflective of the scope of the change:
The following list compiles the most likely changes that are expected to have the most impact on the game and to be of most interest to golfers and those who follow the game:
Ball at Rest
Ball Moved

  • No penalty for accidentally moving your ball during search.
  • No Penalty for Moving Ball on the Putting Green.
  • No penalty for accidentally moving your ball or ball-marker on the putting green.
  • New standard to determine if you caused your ball to move; the player will be found to be the cause only when it is known or virtually certain (meaning at least 95%) to be the case.

Ball Replaced

  • When the original location of your ball is not known, replace it 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.

Ball in Motion
Accidentally Deflected

  • No penalty if your ball in motion is accidentally deflected by you, your equipment, or your caddie.

Taking Relief
Dropping Procedure

  • Your relief area for dropping a ball will be a fixed size of either one or two club-lengths using the longest club in your bag, other than your putter.
  • You must hold the ball above the ground without it touching any growing thing or other natural or artificial object, and let it go so that it falls through the air before coming to rest.
  • Your ball must come to rest in the relief area where it was dropped, or else it must be redropped.
  • A fixed distance of the longest club in your bag, other than your putter, will be used for measuring.

Lost Ball

  • Your ball is considered lost if not found in three minutes (rather than the current 5 minutes).

Substituting Ball

  • You may always substitute a ball when taking relief.

Embedded Ball

  • Relief allowed without penalty for an embedded ball anywhere (except in sand) in the “general area” (a new term for “through the green”), unless a Local Rule has been adopted restricting relief only to areas cut to fairway height or less.

Areas of the Course
Putting Greens

  • After your ball has been lifted and replaced, you would always replace your ball on its original spot, even if it was blown by the wind or moved for no clear reason.
  • Repair of almost any damage allowed on the putting green (including spike marks and animal damage, but not including natural imperfections).
  • No penalty for touching your line of play on the putting green so long as doing so does not improve the conditions for your stroke.
  • No penalty if your ball played from the putting green (or anywhere else) hits the unattended flagstick in the hole.

Penalty Areas

  • Areas of desert, jungle, lava rock, etc. (in addition to areas of water) may now be marked as red or yellow “penalty areas.”
  • No penalty for moving loose impediments, touching the ground, or grounding your club in a penalty area.
  • Committees are given the discretion to mark any penalty area as red so that lateral relief is always allowed (but they may still mark penalty areas as yellow where they consider it appropriate).
  • Relief from a red penalty area no longer allowed on the opposite side from where the ball last entered the penalty area unless the Committee adopts a Local Rule allowing it.


  • Relaxed Rules relating to loose impediments and touching the ground in a bunker; No penalty except when a player touches sand (1) with his or her hand or club to test the conditions of the bunker or (2) with the club in the area right behind or in front of the ball, in making a practice swing or in making the backswing for the stroke.
  • Relief allowed outside a bunker for an unplayable ball for two penalty strokes.

Damaged Clubs

  • A club damaged during a round can continue to be used, even if you damaged it in anger.
  • You will not be allowed to replace a damaged club during a round if you were responsible for the damage.

Other Equipment

  • The use of DMDs will be allowed unless a Local Rule has been adopted prohibiting their use.

Playing a Ball
Advice and Help

  • A caddie is not allowed to stand on a line behind you while you are taking your stance and until your stroke is made.
  • Your caddie may lift and replace your ball on the putting green without your specific authorization to do so.
  • If your club accidentally strikes your ball more than once during a stroke, there will be no penalty and your ball will be played as it lies.

When to Play During a Round
Pace of Play

  • It is recommended that you play “ready golf” and make each stroke in no more than 40 seconds.
  • No penalty (as of now), and “Ready golf” is encouraged when it can be done in a safe and responsible way.
  • A new “Maximum Score” form of stroke play is recognized, where a player’s score for a hole is capped at a maximum score (such as double par or triple bogey) that is set by the Committee. A new “Maximum Score” form of stroke play is recognized, where your score for a hole is capped at a max score.
  • Simplified dropping rules, allowing more areas to be marked as penalty areas, expanded use of red penalty areas and allowing a player to putt with the flagstick in the hole.
  • Player Behavior
    Standards of Conduct

  • The proposed new Rules speak to the high standards of conduct expected from players.
  • Committees are given authority to adopt their own code of player conduct and to set penalties for breaches of that code.
  • Integrity

  • When you have good reason to mark and lift your ball, you are no longer required to first announce your intention.
  • When estimating or measuring a spot, point, line, area or distance under a Rule, a player’s reasonable judgment will not be second-guessed based on later evidence (such as video review) if the player did all that could be reasonably expected under the circumstances to make an accurate estimation or measurement.