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Opinion & Analysis

10 Things to Know About the 2019 Rules of Golf



1. When do the new Rules take effect?

January 1st, 2019.

2. Why do we need new Rules?

Well, for quite a few reasons:

  1. The R&A and USGA want to simplify the Rules.
  2. They want to make them more modern.
  3. They want the Rules to be easier to understand.
  4. They want to remove some of the penalties.

3. Will there be fewer Rules, then?

Yes. According to the draft (see “8” below) there will only be 24 Rules in the 2019 Rules of Golf (there are 34 now). Please be aware, though, that the 2019 Rules will also be quite complicated and have a lot of text!

4. Do the Rules change a lot?


5. Can I use my old Rules book(s) in 2019?

No. You have to get a new one.

6. I only need one Rules book, right? 

Well, that depends on how much interest you have in the Rules of Golf. I would definitely recommend that you get the rules book itself. Furthermore, I would recommend that you buy an easy-to-use Rules book (e.g. one with drawings, examples etc.). There are a few good ones of these (see also about the “players edition” below in No. 7).

7. Which Rules books are published by The R&A/USGA?

They will publish these rules books:

  1. The Rules book itself.
  2. A “Players Edition.” This will be a book with focus on the most common rules and with drawings, examples, etc.
  3. A “Handbook.” The present “Decisions Book” (with interpretations of the rules of golf) will no longer exist as of January 2019, but instead a handbook (with guidelines) will be published.

There will also be an app… maybe an illustrated book, etc.

8. What is the status on the 2019 Rules?

The R&A and USGA published a draft in March 2017. This draft has been in hearing, and they are right now working on finalizing the Rules. The new Rules book is expected to be published in March 2018. The Handbook and the “Players Edition” will be published later in 2018.

9. What are the primary changes?

As stated above, we only have a draft and not the final version for now. But according to this draft, some of the major changes will be:

  1. There will be a different dropping procedure, where you don’t have to hold the ball at arm lengths and at shoulder height, but simply can drop the ball holding it a few inches above the ground.
  2. When measuring e.g. relief, “one club length” will be changed to “20 inches” and “two club lengths” will be changed to “80 inches.”
  3. When deeming your ball unplayable in a bunker, you will be allowed with a two-stroke-penalty to drop a ball on the “straight line” outside the bunker.
  4. Searching time is reduced from five to three minutes.
  5. A new kind of stroke-play (“Maximum Score”) will be introduced.
  6. A lot of the penalties under the current rules will be removed.

These are just a few. In some future blogs, I will write more in detail about the many changes.

10. Where can I read more about the changes?

See this link: or this link

By the way, since this is my first GolfWRX Article allow me to introduce myself. My name is Brian Oswald, and I’m the founder of (The Oswald Academy), which has only one purpose: To teach in the Rules of Golf in a (hopefully!) fun and entertaining way. I publish Rules books and Rules videos, answer questions and hold seminars arounds the world. I also have a Rules newsletter, among other things. 

If you have any questions and/or comments feel free to contact me on

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I am founder of "The Oswald Academy", which has only one purpose: To teach in the Rules of Golf. My hope is to make the Rules of Golf interesting and easy to understand. I am publishing Rules Books, conducting seminars, letterboxes, writing blogs, publishing "The Oswald Rules School" (videos) and much more. I live in New York, but I was born in Denmark. I am a former lawyer, and have two kids - and one wife.



  1. Jim Iken

    Mar 3, 2018 at 8:04 pm

    The new rules also haven’t fixed th BS rule penalty of two strokes when card is turned in but unknown penalty is later added by the committee.
    We can look forward to more stupid incidents like those that wereso controversial last couple years. USGA is still amateur hour.

  2. sid

    Mar 2, 2018 at 6:53 pm

    Rules of Golf + Complex swing instructions = A game too complicated to play

  3. DaveT

    Mar 2, 2018 at 2:50 pm

    IMHO, the biggest problem with the current rules appears to be ignored by the new ones; they don’t address it at all. That is stroke and distance for lost ball or out of bounds, with the concomitant need to hit a second ball (often requiring a walk back to the tee). Every league in my area on public courses treats lost like unplayable and OB like a lateral hazard. The new rules should have done that. Greatly speeds up the game.

    • sid

      Mar 2, 2018 at 6:55 pm

      Also every player should putt out instead of alternating putts. That would really speed up the game because all the gossiping on the greens would be reduced.

  4. Tom54

    Mar 2, 2018 at 2:24 pm

    I too am confused about using club length vs 20 or 80 inches. That seems dumb to me. Also since when is it 2 shot penalty for relief from bunker. Thought it was just one. Very misinformed article I thought

    • DaveT

      Mar 2, 2018 at 2:42 pm

      Tom54, under the present rules (not the new ones) if you take relief (unplayable) within a bunker, the penalty is indeed one stroke and you must drop within the bunker. Check it out; the only way to get relief from the bunker itself is to go back and replay the shot (with a stroke penalty).

      The new rules allow you a drop outside the bunker, but at the cost of an additional penalty stroke.

  5. mark

    Mar 2, 2018 at 11:47 am

    A rule that would benefit many players is the lost ball, or ball hit out-of-bounds. You can still re-hit from the spot with a 1 stroke penalty, or give the player a 2 stroke penalty with distance, at a spot near the out-of-bounds area, or wear the ball entered the location where it was lost. This would save time looking, going back to re-hit, and would also save the player a golf ball/s ($4-5 Pro V1) if they hit the same poor shot 2-3 more times.

    • mark

      Mar 2, 2018 at 1:53 pm

      Where not wear. I need to spellcheck better.

  6. ewfnick

    Mar 2, 2018 at 6:03 am

    A waste of an article. flesh it out a little

  7. nyguy

    Mar 1, 2018 at 4:40 pm

    this article leaves more questions than answers… maximum score?

  8. John

    Mar 1, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    Seriously? Because the whole world uses inches…..

    • James T

      Mar 2, 2018 at 11:30 am

      … so i can stop carrying that 60″ driver in my bag as a measuring device???

      • DrRob1963

        Mar 2, 2018 at 6:23 pm

        Yes! – you can get a 40″ one now!!!

  9. SV

    Mar 1, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    If one club length is “equal” to 20 inches, how are two club lengths equal to 80″? And how are you to measure this, will we need to carry a tape measure?

    • sid

      Mar 2, 2018 at 7:00 pm

      20 inches = 50.8 centimeters
      80 inches = 203.2 centimeters
      Does this mean everybody must carry a tape measure as part of their WITB paraphernalia?!!

  10. Brian

    Mar 1, 2018 at 1:47 pm

    Wow…so informative.

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Opinion & Analysis

How valuable is hitting the fairway, really?



Hitting more than 50 percent of fairways has long been considered a good goal for amateur golfers. The winners on the PGA Tour tend to hit 70 percent. I have long maintained, however, that it is not the number of fairways HIT that matters. Instead, it is the relative severity of fairways MISSED.

Think about it. By the one-dimensional Fairways Hit stat, every miss is the same. A perfect lie in the first cut is exactly the same as a drive in a hazard… or even OB. There is nothing in the 650+ PGA Tour stats about this. In all, there are 60 stats in seven categories that relate to driving performance, but none about penalties! Like PGA Tour players don’t make any?

Let’s see exactly how important the old tried-and-true Driving Accuracy (Percentage of Fairways Hit) really is. To test it, I used two data clusters: the 2017 PGA Tour season (14,845 ShotLink rounds) and my database for the average male golfer (15 to 19 handicappers – 4,027 rounds).

For the graph below, I started with the No. 1-ranked player in the Driving Accuracy category: Ryan Armour. He certainly was accurate by this measure, but why did he only rank 100th in 2017 Strokes Gained Off the Tee with a barely positive 0.020?

Next I looked at the actual top-5 PGA Tour money winners (J. Thomas, J Spieth, D. Johnson, H. Matsuyama and J. Rohm), the 2017 PGA Tour average, and all PGA Tour players that missed the cut in 2017. We all know the significant scoring differences between these three categories of players, but it’s difficult to see a meaningful difference in the fairways hit. They’re not even separated by half a fairway. How important could this stat be?

For those that have not tried, our analysis includes Strokes Gained and Relative Handicap comparisons. That enables users to easily differentiate between FIVE MISS categories below based upon severity. The final three categories are what we consider to be Driving Errors:

  1. Good lie/Opportunity: One can easily accomplish their next goal of a GIR or advancement on a par-5.
  2. Poor Lie/Opportunity: One could accomplish the next goal, but it will require a very good shot.
  3. No Shot: Requires an advancement to return to normal play.
  4. Penalty-1: Penalty with a drop.
  5. OB/Lost: Stroke and distance penalty, or shot replayed with a stroke penalty.

As we are fortunate enough to work with several PGA Tour players at Shot by Shot, we have access to ShotLink data and can provide those clients with the same valuable insight.

Let’s see how the frequency and severity of driving errors relates to the above groups of players (removing Mr. Armour, as he simply helped us prove the irrelevance of Driving Accuracy). The graphs below display the number of Driving Errors per round and the Average Cost Per Error. Note the strong and consistent correlation between the number and the cost of errors at each of the four levels of performance.

Finally, the average cost of the errors is heavily driven by the three degrees of severity outlined above (No Shot, Penalty, OB/Lost). The graph below compares the relative number and cost of the three types of errors for the average golfer and PGA Tour players. The major difference is that PGA Tour players do not seem to have a proper share of OB/Lost penalties. I found only TWO in the 14,000+ ShotLink rounds. While I accept that the most severe faux pas are significantly less frequent on the PGA Tour, I also believe there must have been more than two.

Why so few? First and foremost, PGA Tour players REALLY ARE good. Next, the galleries stop a lot of the wayward shots. And finally, I believe that many of the ShotLink volunteer data collectors may not actually know or care about the difference between a Penalty and OB/Lost.

Author’s Note: If you want to know your Strokes Gained Off the Tee (Driving) and exactly how important your fairways and the misses are, log onto for a 1-Round FREE Trial.

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Opinion & Analysis

Yo GolfWRX: “Are you betting on Tiger Woods to win the Masters?” (Bonus: A March Madness-inspired shot attempt)



Equipment expert Brian Knudson and Editor Andrew Tursky discuss a variety of topics including Tiger Woods being the favorite at The Masters. Also, a Fujikura Pro 2.0 shaft unboxing, Knudson paints the new TG2 studio, and Tursky tries to go viral during March Madness season.

Enjoy the video below!

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Opinion & Analysis

Tiger shoots opening-round 68 at Bay Hill, is now the Masters betting favorite



It’s happening. Tiger Woods is playing good golf, and the Masters hype train is full-steam ahead. After opening at 100-1 odds to win the Masters, Tiger is now the favorite to win at Augusta in 2018, according to Jeff Sherman, an oddsmaker for (according to his Twitter bio).

After 9 holes (he started on the back nine) at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill — where Tiger has won eight times — he was sitting at 3-under par. What also happened at that time was Sherman updated Tiger as the favorite to win the Masters. Clearly, bettors and Tiger fans had seen all they needed to see in order to put their money down on him winning another Green Jacket in 2018.

Related: See the clubs in Tiger’s bag

On the course’s third hole, however, with water looming left, Tiger hit a foul ball with a 3-wood off the tee and later realized the shot had gone out-of-bounds. Tiger was hot under the collar after hearing the news, and he threw his 3-wood headcover backwards in disgust as he started walking back to the tee to reload. He salvaged double-bogey, and he then made three more birdies coming home to complete his 4-under par round of 68; one of the birdies was a 71-footer after which all Tiger could do was smile.

Woods currently sits in a tie for fifth place, just two shots behind the leader Henrik Stenson.

Can Tiger win at Bay Hill for the ninth time? Will you bet on Tiger as the favorite to win at the Masters? Will Tiger win the Masters?

The questions above would have seemed ridiculous to ask just a month ago, but they’re now legitimate. Welcome back to the spotlight, Tiger.

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19th Hole