The need to grow the game of golf is more clear now than ever. According to the National Golf Foundation, over 200 golf courses in the United States shut down in 2018. This in an alarming statistic and the focus of the USGA and the R&A has recently been set on growing the game to new audiences while speeding up the pace of play for an average round of golf. In 2019 we began seeing steps in this direction, starting with the golf rules changes from the R&A. These rules changes were implemented with the goal of speeding up the average pace of play and to make the game more approachable for beginners. In order to understand how the new rules will change how we play, we must first understand what they mean and why they were changed. In this article, I will cover the top 10 most important rule changes that you need to know before getting into the 2019 golf season. For a full explanation of the rules of golf, including all rules changes, you can download The Official Rules of Golf App.

Golf Rules Changes You Should Know

1. There is no longer a need to pull the flagstick from the hole, even when putting. A player now has the option to leave the flag in until the completion of the hole. There is no longer a penalty for hitting the flag with a putt from on the green. The main objective of this rule change is to speed up the pace of play.

2. A player is now allowed to double hit the ball without an added stroke penalty. This rules change is sensible because there’s very rarely a double hit struck on purpose and even more rare is a double hit that ends up being a good shot so the USGA and R&A decided to due away with the penalty.

3. The rule surrounding the dropping of your golf ball in play has changed again. Say goodbye to dropping from shoulder height, the new rules states that a player must drop the ball from knee height. The reason for this rule change is to decrease the randomness involved from a shoulder height drop and to lessen the amount a ball becomes embedded into grass or sand.

4. In the past, a golfer could replace and fix a ball mark on a green but not a spikemark caused by another player. This rule seemed odd because there isn’t much of a difference between the two and you shouldn’t get penalized for something that doesn’t belong on the green. With the new rules changes, you are now allowed to fix a spike mark as well.

5. A player is now given three minutes to look for a golf ball instead of the previous five minutes. The purpose of this rule change is to speed up the pace of play and decrease the amount of time that is spent looking for lost balls.

6. You will no longer be penalized for a ball that was accidently moved on the putting green or while searching for it. Just replace the ball to the original position and continue. This is another method of making the game more enjoyable. Nobody receives an advantage for accidently bumping their ball on the green or stepping on it in thick rough so there is no need to incur a penalty.

7. Golfers will now be able to move loose impediments and ground their clubs in a penalty area. This allows players to play a shot from a penalty area without worrying about adding more penalty strokes for a small error. Also, a player will be permitted to move loose impediments from a bunker as well as long as they don’t touch the sand in front of or behind the ball.

8. If your ball is stuck in the lip of a bunker or otherwise deemed unplayable, you may remove it from the bunker in a straight line from the hole. From a spot on that straight line, you may drop your ball one club length on either side. This will cost you two penalty strokes.

9. A player is now permitted to continue using a club that was damaged during the course of play for any reason, including if they broke it in anger. The player will not be given a penalty of any kind and can continue using the club. This extinguishes any worries of being disqualified for using equipment that has been altered during play.

10. Finally, the USGA is encouraging the use of ready golf during play. This means players are now allowed to play out of turn in a safe manor in order to speed up the pace of play and for convenience factors. In addition, players should play all shots within 40 seconds. These new changes are to encourage proper pace of play and to set an example for those who are new to the game.

After studying these new rules, it’s obvious to see that the USGA and R&A have set their focus on making the game more approachable and convenient. It’s important to make golf more welcoming to new players and increase the growth of the game. These rules speed up the pace of play and encourage ready golf, making the game more enjoyable for everyone. These rules are a step in the right direction for the game and it’s a large part of the movement to modernize golf.