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New Golf Rules Worth Noting

Great News on the Proposed Changes to Golf Rules

If you have not heard, the USGA and the R&A (Royal and Ancient – the golf governing body located at St. Andrews, Scotland) have amended some golf rules in an effort to make the game easier and more player friendly. And some rules just simply need to be changed.

So I have put a list of some of the rules that I think will impact you the most. You can take a look at the complete list, if you are so inclined, at the USGA website.


Before anything is changed, everyday golfers will have several months to write, email or call the USGA and give their opinion about the rules they want to change, the rules they haven’t changed and what you would change. Once that comment period is done on Aug. 31, rules makers say they will review the feedback, finalize a new set of procedures and penalties, and announce them early in 2018 for 2019 implementation.


So what are the rules that I think you will be excited about? From

  1. PUTTING GREEN: If you accidentally move your ball or ball-marker on the putting green, there is no penalty. Just put it back.
    Currently: It’s a one-stroke penalty if you do either (with exceptions).
  2. REPAIRING BALL MARKS: You can repair almost any damage on the putting green including spike marks and animal damage. You cannot repair natural imperfections.
    Currently: You can only repair ball marks or old hole plugs.
  3. TOUCHING LINE OF PUTT: So long as you don’t improve the conditions for your stroke, you can touch the line of putt to indicate a target.
    Currently: Touching the line comes with a penalty of loss of hole (match play) or two shots (stroke play).
  4. FLAG STICK: You can leave the flagstick in the cup when your ball is on the putting green, and there is no penalty if your ball strikes it.
    Currently: Loss of hole (match play) or two-shot penalty (stroke play) if you strike the flagstick with a stroke from the putting green.
  5. HAZARD (from this moment forward to be preferred to as PENALTY AREA): You can move loose impediments in penalty areas, touch the ground with your hand or club, or ground your club without penalty.
    Currently: If you did any of the preceding, it’s a loss of hole (match play) or a two-shot penalty (stroke play).
  6. BUNKERS: You can touch and move a loose impediment in a bunker when your ball is in that bunker.
    Currently: Penalty for doing so is loss of hole (match play) or two shots (stroke play).   You can touch the sand with your hand or club so long as you’re not testing the conditions of the bunker, you’re not placing the club right in front of or behind the ball, and you’re not making a practice swing or backswing.
    Currently: With some exceptions, such as accidentally falling when entering the bunker, touching the sand with hand or club results in loss of hole (match play) or a two-shot penalty (stroke play).
  7. BUNKER RELIEF: Let me paraphrase this…You can now take relief from a bunker if think it will take you 100 strokes to get out. The current option to take relief outside of the bunker is ONLY to go back to where you last hit the ball that went into the bunker. Of course it will cost you two shots to take this new option.
  8. BALL AT REST: You are only considered to have caused your ball to move if it is virtually certain (at least 95 percent likely) that you were the cause.
    Currently: You are consider to have caused your ball to move if it is more likely than not (50.1 percent) that you were the cause.
  9. BALL IN MOTION: If your ball accidentally strikes you, your caddie, your opponent or any equipment, there is no penalty. Play it as it lies. But you cannot deliberately try to bank or deflect a shot off your equipment.
    Currently: Accidentally hitting yourself, your caddie, the person attending a flagstick on the green—or an attended or removed flagstick when making a stroke from the putting green—resulted in a one- or two-stroke penalty depending on the circumstances.
  10. TAKING RELIEF: The only requirements when taking a drop are to hold the ball above the ground without it touching any object, and it must fall through the air before coming to rest. Height is not a requirement. A.K.A You can hold the ball ONE inch off the ground then drop it and you can toss it too.
    Currently: You must stand and hold a ball at shoulder height, with your arm extended, before dropping.
  11. EMBEDDED BALL: You can now take relief for an embedded ball through the green including the rough…but NOT bunkers.
  12. RANGE FINDERS: You can now use range finders without a local rule being applied.
  13. DAMAGED EQUIPMENT: You can use damaged clubs during a round even if it became damaged as a result of anger…ahem.
  14. MAX SCORE FOR PACE OF PLAY: A new form of stroke play is recognized where your maximum score for a hole is capped (such as double par or triple bogey). That max score is set by the committee.
  15. TURN UP THE MUSIC: You’re allowed to listen to or watch sporting events, news broadcasts or music as “entertainment” during a round if it doesn’t give you an advantage when playing. It would be a penalty, for example, if you were listening because it improves your rhythm or relaxes you, but not if you wanted to share a new song you love with other members of your group.
    Currently: With some exceptions, you cannot listen to music or watch/listen to sporting events and news during a round.
  16. PLAY WHEN READY: In an effort to speed up play, there is an accepted “play when ready” format for stroke play as long as it is considered safe. In match play, the golfers need to agree to this format.
  17. SHE GONE: You now have 3 instead of 5 minutes to look for a lost ball.

It will be interesting to see which of these rules make the new “book”. There are a few more rules concerning penalty areas and caddies that you may want to take a look at on

In the meantime, I highly encourage you to pay attention to what your local committee or club  is enforcing for rules (especially the max score rule).

AND…don’t get too comfortable with any of them as this is a trial period.

Let me know what you think of the new rules in the comments below.

You CAN do this!