This discussion should at least give you an idea of what the governing bodies of the game are trying to do with the rules, and how the proposed changes may make this an even better game for the average player.

Let’s take a look at some of the rule changes proposed for 2019, with some discussion on how they may change the game.

Discussing the New Golf Rules for 2019

A Move Toward Efficiency

Golf is a slow game. Depending on your point of view, that is either a criticism or a compliment. For some people, playing golf is not desirable because it usually takes at least four hours to play an 18-hole round, if not much longer. For other people, the game is enjoyable precisely because it takes so long. In a world that seems to be moving faster and faster, some golfers love the fact that they can spend so much time on the course.

No matter your point of view, the powers that be in the game of golf are working to speed things up a bit. While a leisurely pace can be enjoyed in many instances, few golfers enjoy standing around all day while the players in the next group take forever to play their shots. As golf fights to remain relevant to future generations, it seems like a smart move to work toward a faster pace of play. Some of the proposed rule changes have to do with the exact topic.

Let’s take a look at some of the proposed changes which are designed to impact the pace of the game.

  • Recommendation to play each stroke in no more than 40 seconds. Don’t worry, there aren’t suddenly going to be shot clocks popping up around your favorite local course. However, the rules of golf are set to include a recommendation that you play each stroke within 40 seconds, and usually faster. The hope here is that the simple recommendation – without enforcement attached – will be enough to encourage the average player to speed things up. If you know that you are supposed to be playing in 40 seconds or less, you may think twice about taking two minutes to size up your putt. Also, there could be an element of peer pressure involved here, as faster players may use this recommendation as a way to encourage slower players to keep it moving.
  • Ready golf in encouraged. Currently, when playing in a stroke play competition, there is no penalty for playing out of turn. That remains the case under the new rules, however the rules clarify that ‘ready golf’ is the recommended way to play the game (as opposed to sticking with traditional ‘honors’). Ready golf refers to a system where players simply hit their shots as they are ready, rather than waiting for the player who would be up under the honors system to get ready. For instance, if you made a par on the previous hole, and your playing partner made a birdie, honors would dictate that he or she plays first. This update to the rules clarifies that the recommendation is to simply play whenever ready, regardless of honors. Obviously, you’ll still need to wait until it is safe to play before hitting your shots.
  • Maximum score option. This is a particularly interesting new addition, as many golfers already do this in one form or another. If this rule is adopted, there will be a ‘Maximum Score’ form of stroke play available as a scoring option, particularly for high-handicappers. Basically, the committee for a competition may set a maximum score – such as a triple bogey, for example – that can be recorded on each hole. So, when a player reaches that many strokes and has not finished the hole, he or she can pick up the ball and move on.
  • Reduced search time. Currently, you are allowed five minutes to search for your golf ball under the rules of golf. If you take that full five minutes, and never find your ball, you are likely to disrupt the pace of play going back many groups. Starting in 2019, it is proposed that the search time be reduced to three minutes. While saving those two minutes might not seem like a big deal, they could go a long way toward avoiding a logjam on a given hole.

Most golfers would agree that it is important to keep the pace of play moving on a busy golf course. It is hard to sell a game that takes six hours to play, and it frequently takes that long on busy public golf courses in the middle of the summer. While these rules are not likely to completely solve the pace of play problem, they are a step in the right direction.

Discussing the New Golf Rules for 2019

A Move Toward Simplicity

In addition to slow play, another common complaint from golfers and those who have given up the game is the complexity of the rule book. For what seems like a pretty simple game – just hit the ball until it winds up in the hole – there are an incredible number of rules and decisions. Even experienced professionals often make mistakes with regard to the rules, forgetting how to take a drop in a particular situation or not knowing how to deal with an unusual obstacle. The appeal of simplifying the rules is obvious, as it will make the game more approachable and welcoming to new players.

Of course, there is one problem here – the rules have been complicated for a reason. While the goal of the game is simple, the playing of the game is anything but. There are an infinite number of situations which can arise while out on the course, and the rules need to account for all of them successfully. Writing the rules of golf is actually an incredible challenge, and if anything, it is amazing that haven’t gotten even more complicated over the years.

With these revisions, the USGA and R & A are hoping to take some of the complexity out of parts of the rule book. Let’s look at a few examples of this concept.

  • Expanded use of red-marked penalty areas. Red-staked areas on the course are known as lateral hazards, and they are generally considered the easiest type of hazard to deal with. Under the existing rules of golf, water hazards are supposed to be marked yellow, which designates specific methods that the player must use to determine where the ball will go back in play. Yellow hazards may still be used under the new rules, but committees have discretion to use red hazards more frequently if they so wish. This is a step which is likely to both make the game a little simpler as well a little easier for beginning golfers.
  • Simplified ball drop. For years, golfers have been required to drop their ball back into play by holding it up at shoulder length. This inevitably led to funny bounces, extended dropping procedures, and general confusion as to where the ball should be placed. When the new rules are put into action, the ball can be dropped from just above the ground. There is no minimum height prescribed, but it is recommended that the ball be dropped from at least one inch above the top of the ground or any growing thing. This means the ball isn’t going to be bouncing away nearly as often, and there should be much less confusion when you have to take a drop – especially in dry conditions.
  • No more opposite side relief from red penalty areas. One of the more confusing rules in golf for many players was the option to take relief from a lateral hazard (red hazard) on the opposite side of the hazard. Basically, if you hit your ball into the hazard on the left side, you had the option to take your drop on the right side, if you deemed that to be the best choice. This rule is set be erased under the updated rules, unless the committee in charge decides to enact it as a local rule.

Simplicity is a good thing for the future of golf. When someone decides that they want to pick up this game, it would be a shame for them to be turned off by the complexity of the rules. At the heart of the matter, the rules of golf should exist to make the game more fun and equitable for all. Some of the current rules probably don’t serve that goal, so it is a good idea to set them to the side.

Discussing the New Golf Rules for 2019

A Move Toward Common Sense

Perhaps more than anything else, this adjustment to the rules seems to be about wiping away some of the golf rules that cause the average player to scratch his or her head. These frequently come up when watching a pro tournament, when a player is knocked out of contention by a silly penalty that doesn’t seem to affect play at all. It could be argued that some of these rules have been allowed to linger in the game for far too long, but that is not the point. With the proposed rule changes in 2019, it seems that we may be rid of some of the rules that were just getting in the way.

Looking for some examples? Please check out the points below.

  • Accidentally moving the ball during a search. Every golfer has been there – you hit a bad drive, and you find yourself off in the long grass trying to track down your ball. As you trample through the grass looking for a little white sphere, you realize that it would be easy to accidentally step on or kick your ball. And, under the current rules of golf, you would be penalized for doing so. The proposed rule changes get rid of this penalty, and we believe that makes the game better. After all, the ability to search for a golf ball without accidentally kicking it really doesn’t seem like a skill that should be tested on the course. This update gets rid of a penalty which was punishing golfers for something that really didn’t have anything to do with their ability to get the ball in the hole.
  • Moving loose impediments in the bunker. Again here, we find a rule that really didn’t have a purpose. If you were to touch a loose impediment in a bunker, while your ball was in the bunker, this action would be a penalty of two shots in many cases (or loss of hole in match play). The suggested rule update gets rid of that penalty.
  • Touching the sand in the bunker. Back in the bunkers, we find a rule that has been the subject of plenty of controversy over the years. If you were to touch the sand in the bunker with your hand or the club, you would be assessed a two-stroke penalty, if your ball was in the bunker. This would be the case even if the action was an accident, such as using the club to gain balance while trying to walk down into the sand. It would also be the case even if the incident took place nowhere near your golf ball. Now, the new suggested rule states that a penalty will only be issued if the action was taken as a way to test the sand, or if the sand is touched immediately behind of or in front of the ball (while making a practice swing or starting the backswing). This would seem to be a much more logical rule. You don’t want to allow players to gain an advantage by altering their lie in some way, but you also don’t want to penalize players for something that doesn’t have anything to do with the actual play of the game.
  • Distance measuring devices are allowed. This is a step in the right direction as far as golf embracing technology. Previously, it has been the case that distance measuring devices were allowed only if a local rule was enacted to make them permissible. With this rule change, the situation would be reversed. Instead, distance measuring devices would be allowed by default, and it would take a local rule banning their use to change that status.
  • Repairing damage to the putting green. One last common sense step in the right direction is the change to what can be repaired on the greens. Currently, the only repairs allowed to a player’s putting line were ball marks and old hole plugs. Under the new rules, the player would be allowed to fix most kinds of damage to the green. Importantly, this includes spike marks, which have long been a trouble spot as something that cannot be repaired.

It’s hard to imagine anyone having too much of an issue with any of these proposed changes. They seem to take the game in a logical direction, allowing it to get away from some of the issues of the past without fundamentally changing the way golf is played. Assuming these changes are adopted, it seems likely they will be welcomed with open arms by the majority of the golfing public.

Discussing the New Golf Rules for 2019

Going Forward

Perhaps the best part about the proposed rule changes that are set to take effect in 2019 is what it signals for the future of this great game. Sure, golf has a rich history, and no one should be trying to erase that history, but everything must adapt over time – or else it will wind up extinct. There need to be gradual evolutions to the game of golf if it is going to remain relevant for future generations, and this is an excellent start.

For you personally, it will be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the updated rules, even prior to them taking effect. Once they do go into effect, be sure to confirm exactly which rules were adopted, and how those rules are going to change the way you play. As always, it is a good idea to keep a current copy of the rule book in your golf bag so you can quickly consult it when something comes up on the course.

Is it essential to understand every last rule of golf if you are going to have fun playing this game? No – probably not. You can get by just knowing the basics, especially if you don’t play in tournaments. With that said, we think you will find that your enjoyment of the game grows as you learn more and more about the rules. Believe it or not, the rules can actually help you in some cases, as knowing your options will let you make the best possible decision for the situation at hand.

The rule changes we have discussed in this article are not yet official, and if they do become official, they will not go into effect until 2019. The changes that do become official will not change the game in a dramatic way, but they will make it better in a number of small ways. We hope this article has helped you understand the changes that seem to be coming to this wonderful game. Have fun out there!