The USGA and R&A have recently announced a list of official changes to the rules of golf beginning January 1st 2019. While some are more technical and typically enforced at the professional level, there are a few that recreation golfers and weekend warriors can pay attention to:
1) Putting with the flag stick in⛳️: There will no longer be a penalty if a ball played from the putting green hits a flagstick left in the hole. Players now have a choice to leave the flagstick in the hole or have it removed when putting.
2) Ready golf🏌🏽♀️: Ready golf is encouraged to help speed up the pace of play. The first tee shot on each hole is now awarded to the first player that is ready to tee-off and will no longer automatically lie with the player who would have historically 'had the honour', i.e. the lowest score on the previous hole.
3) Repairing marks🔧: Golfers can now repair spike marks and almost any other damage on the green before they putt. “Damage on the putting green” will be defined to include all types of damage (such as ball-marks, shoe damage, indentations from a club or flagstick, animal damage, etc.), except aeration holes, natural surface imperfections or natural wear of the hole.
4) Reduced time⏱: The time to find a lost ball and take a stroke have been reduced. Players are now allotted 3 minutes to find a lost ball (compared to 5); and are encouraged to take no longer than 40 seconds to make a stroke (...we all know someone this rule directly applies to!)
5) Ball drop from knee height👇🏽: when taking relief from a penalty area, you can now drop the ball from knee height (rather than shoulder height).
6) Maximum Score📈: This is an additional form of stroke play should you choose to use it.
A player’s score for each hole is capped at a maximum set by the Committee/Group, 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.
7) Accidental ball movement on the green🤷♂️: Any accidental movement of the ball while getting ready to take a stroke will result in no penalty and the ball is simply replaced.
8) Relaxed bunker rules🏖: the player will be allowed to touch or move loose impediments in a bunker and will be generally allowed to touch the sand with a hand or club; but a limited prohibition continues so that the player must not:
Deliberately touch the sand in a bunker with a hand, club, rake or other object to test the condition of the sand to learn information for the stroke, or
Touch the sand in a bunker with a club in making a practice swing
Also, if they so wish, when faced with an unplayable ball, a player can drop outside the bunker for a 2 shot penalty.
9) Relief for and embedded ball📏: You may now take relief for a ball embedded anywhere in the “general area”, except when embedded in sand. In taking relief, the player will drop the original ball or a substituted ball within one club-length of (but not nearer the hole than) the spot right behind where the ball was embedded.
10) Use of Damaged Clubs🏌🏼♂️: A player will be allowed to keep using and/or to repair any club damaged during the round, no matter what the damage. So whether you accidentally hit a rock or decide to wrap your club around a tree, it can still be used to finish the round. Additionally, a player will not be allowed to replace a damaged club, except when it is damaged during the round by an outside influence or natural forces or by someone other than the player or his or her caddie.
With all these changes, one thing remains the same, golf if still a courteous sport. Please continue to respect the players around you when playing and take care of the course by fixing your divots are obeying the course rules! See you soon on the fairway 😁
Want to see a list of all the rule changes and the reasoning behind them? Click the link to see the original article posted by the USGA: http://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rules-modernization/major-changes/major-changes.html