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Opinion & Analysis

2019 Rule Changes: What’s in it for you?

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Recently the USGA and R&A revealed the results of their review of the feedback the public provided to the original proposals to modernize the Rules of Golf:  The final text of the 2019 Rules is now available.

There’s a lot going on there, and the first thing you’ll note is the clear indication that the “new” Rules are in many ways “your” Rules.  The two Ruling Bodies took the feedback of ordinary players to heart. Major changes between the original proposals and the final results include changing the dropping height from “any height” above the ground to “knee height,” changing relief measurement from the proposed 20/40/80 inches back to the traditional one or two club lengths (the club used to measure will need to be your longest club other than your putter), the elimination of the double-hit penalty, and perhaps most profoundly, moving from a long-standing resistance to change the Stroke and Distance penalty to providing an optional Local Rule that will permit you to drop at a location near your lost or OB ball rather than walk back to the spot from which your previous shot was made. 

Those are just changes to the original proposals. The changes between the 2019 Rules and the current Rules are vast. For decades, the Rules have been presented in two publications: the Rules of Golf (which currently presents the 34 base Rules) and the Decisions on the Rules of Golf (which interprets the base Rules). Starting in 2019, and for the foreseeable future, we’ll instead be working with three publications: 

  • The revised Rules of Golf
  • The Player’s Edition of the Rules of Golf
  • The Official Guide to the Rules of Golf. 

The new Rules of Golf differs significantly from the previous book, and not only in that it obviously holds revised Rules. It’s now written in a more reader-friendly way, and will soon have supporting illustrations. The number of Rules presented has been decreased from today’s 34 to 24 (in part since some Rules addressing the Committee’s behavior have been moved elsewhere), the Definitions section (now at the end of the book instead of up front) has been expanded, and some of the information previously only available in the Decisions book has been worked into this main Rulebook.

In September, we will see the illustrations added to the new Rules of Golf, along with our first view of the other two new books. The Player’s Edition of the Rules of Golf will be a user-friendly, abridged version of the main Rulebook intended for use by the average player, and the Official Guide to the Rules of Golf will be a replacement for today’s Decisions book and particularly useful to officials and Committees.

While you can get a head start by reading the text for the main 2019 Rulebook now, and while there is already a significant amount of information (including videos) on the USGA’s website contrasting the old and new Rules, the USGA says it doesn’t plan to officially start its “education” process until September. 

Beyond the fact that players had a significant role in defining the new Rules, what else is in it for you? Well, following are some tantalizing new freedoms you’ll have come January 1, 2019. If you’re inspired to take a more detailed look at the new Rulebook available online, for your reference each comment below is followed by the new Rule number:

  • Repair almost any damage on putting green, including spike marks. (R 13.1c)
  • Accidentally move your ball on the green. (R 13.1d — no longer just a Local Rule)
  • Touch what used to be called your “line of putt.”  (Elimination of old R 16-1a)
  • While on the green, allow your ball to strike the unattended flagstick left in the hole, or accidentally strike the flagstick randomly left on the ground. (R 13.2)
  • Accidentally deflect your ball off any player or equipment (even off yourself or your own equipment). (R 11.1)
  • Accidentally hit your ball more than once during a stroke. (R 10.1a)
  • Accidentally move your ball during a search.  (R 7.4)
  • Move Loose Impediments in what are now called Hazards (and will be called either Penalty Areas or Bunkers). Just make sure you don’t accidentally move your ball while doing so.  (R 15.1a) 
  • Ground your club in a Penalty Area or Bunker (though not right in front of or right behind your ball in a Bunker). (R 8.1b)
  • Drop your ball from knee height instead of shoulder height (a big benefit in bunkers). (R 14.3b)
  • Ignore the complicated list of requirements as to when to re-drop your ball detailed in old Rule 20-2c — just make sure your ball doesn’t hit you or your equipment before it hits the ground, and comes to rest within the margins of the relief area, and you’re good to go.  (R 14.3c)
  • If necessary, mark and lift your ball to see if it is damaged, to identify it, or to see if it is in a condition where relief is allowed without having to first alert others. (R 4.2c, 7.3, 16.4)
  • Get a two club-length wide leeway (one CL either side/no closer) when dropping on a spot, an estimated spot, or on a line from the hole.  (R 14.6b, 16.3b, 17.1d, 19.2b)
  • Use “reasonable judgement” in estimating and measuring drop locations and that will be good enough. (R 1.3b)
  • Generally be able to drop in the fairway (with a 2 stroke penalty) if a ball is lost or OB. (Optional new Local Rule)

So, a whole lot to ponder. Maybe take a peek now and make things a little easier to adjust to come January. In the meantime, take care and play well!

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Howard Meditz is a member of the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association and author of the book, How to Love the Rules of Golf, available on Amazon. He holds “The Highest Level of Rating” in knowledge of the Rules of Golf, a designation awarded by the PGA of America and the United States Golf Association. He's a member of the Rules & Competitions Committee and a rules official for New York’s Metropolitan Golf Association; a member of the Executive Committee and a rules official for New York’s Westchester Golf Association; a rules official for the Women’s Metropolitan Golf Association; and holds a seat on the Board of Governors and is Rules Chairman at Connecticut’s busiest golf facility. (He really loves the Rules of Golf.)

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Lovejoy

    Jul 12, 2018 at 6:01 am

    Te,you’re right,we have ob tight on the right side of 4 of our opening 5 holes,I’ve seen multiple reloads before a ball is put into play which is an appropriate penalty and reward for the golfer who can find the fairway.

  2. One Day At A Time

    Jul 11, 2018 at 5:19 pm

    Whilst intentions seem to be in the right place, too much reform too quickly has generally had a negative effect in all arenas. I do not support these changes.

  3. Till

    Jul 11, 2018 at 8:17 am

    I had to learn rules and decisions for my teaching pro exams and I have to say that simplifying a lot of stuff is the way to go.

    Reading the rule book was a torture.

    And if nobody wants to read those rules, they are basically obsolete.
    I love the fact that they are putting images in it, too.

  4. Alan R

    Jul 10, 2018 at 7:54 pm

    Howard wrote “Major changes between the original proposals and the final results include changing the dropping height from “any height” above the ground to “knee height,” changing relief measurement from the proposed 20/40/80 inches back to the traditional one or two club lengths (the club used to measure will need to be your longest club other than your putter), the elimination of the double-hit penalty, and perhaps most profoundly, moving from a long-standing resistance to change the Stroke and Distance penalty to providing an optional Local Rule that will permit you to drop at a location near your lost or OB ball rather than walk back to the spot from which your previous shot was made”

    From “any height to knew height” AND “20/40/80 inches to 2 club lengths ARE changes from the original proposal.

    BUT, weren’t the “elimination of the double-hit penalty” AND the “optional local rule to drop at a location NEAR the OB” actually PART OF the original proposal ???

  5. ogo

    Jul 10, 2018 at 3:39 pm

    The Rules of Golf only applies to low handicap ams and tour pros. The rest of us just use common sense like carrying a spare ball to be dropped in the fairway and in the vicinity of where your lost ball last entered the rough…. to keep up the pace of play and avoid mosquito and tick infested areas.

    • Draw down

      Jul 11, 2018 at 1:45 pm

      So so wrong.

      The “rest of us”? You don’t speak for the rest of us.

  6. Te

    Jul 10, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    Sad. Strict rules are what makes the game, and now they are letting most of it go for the sake of low-scoring and pace of play – neither of which is had ever been the point of the game but now with so many lazy hackers on the courses that feed the industry, this is what we have come to. Might as well introduce the ability to record every shot and every situation with our smartphones on record all day during competition rounds pointed at each other so we can determine exactly what happened when there are no officials on the courses, and waste more time playing with technology

    • dat

      Jul 10, 2018 at 3:16 pm

      You can play whatever rules you like. If you want you can stop playing altogether.

      • ogo

        Jul 10, 2018 at 3:45 pm

        The Rules of Golf make golf a mockery and no fun to play.

        • Draw down

          Jul 11, 2018 at 1:47 pm

          Sorry dude, but the only mockery is you. I don’t know what game you are playing, but it isn’t golf.

      • Te

        Jul 10, 2018 at 4:53 pm

        Yup, that’s almost what the new rules are going to be – dropping near the point where the ball may have crossed the OB line? That’s the worst decision ever.

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Courses

Hidden Gem of the Day: Boulder Creek Golf Club in Streetsboro, Ohio

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here! 

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member JimGantz, who takes us to Boulder Creek Golf Club in Streetsboro, Ohio. Just 30 minutes from downtown Cleveland, Boulder Creek features over 100 feet of elevation changes, and when you look at the photos of the course, it’s easy to see why this track landed in our hidden gem thread. JimGantz gives us a concise description of the course, praising it for its nice blend of different hole types.

“Conditions are always top notch. Fluffy bunkers, thick-ish rough.  Staff are super friendly. Good mix of long and short holes which is something I like. I’m not a huge fan of playing a course where every par 3 is over 200yds. This track mixes it up.”

According to Boulder Creek Golf Club’s website, 18 holes with a cart from Monday-Thursday will set you back $40, while to play on the weekend costs $50. Seniors can play the course for as little as $25 during the week.

@BoulderCreekOH

@amgolferblog

@troymezz

Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: Flightscope’s Alex Trujillo on why all golfers need shot data technology

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In this episode of the GearDive, Johnny chats with Alex Trujillo Sr. Sales Manager for Flightscope about understanding data, how information can make sense to your average golfer, why everyone should utilize data, and the downside of too much data.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

An ode to Lee Westwood

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Lee Westwood secured his 24th European Tour victory last week in South Africa, ending a winless streak that lasted over three years, and showing once again the resiliency that has proven to be a cornerstone in his potentially Hall of Fame career. The victory brought an emotional Westwood to tears as he proved that perhaps, at 45 years old, he should not be counted out just yet. This was his third time hoisting the Nedbank Golf Challenge trophy, and Westwood surmised that he “still got it, I guess.”

Indeed, he does, beating out a solid field that included the likes of Rory McIlroy, a hot Sergio Garcia, and Louis Oosthuizen.

Westwood’s career is characterized by a sort of blue collar style of golf. Even in his younger days he was never the longest off the tee, he doesn’t have the smoothest or most beautiful swing, his short game is at times questionable, and he has often been plagued by an inconsistent flat stick. Westwood’s strength has been his ball striking. His recognizable and repeatable quick dip into the ball is usually followed by a precisely and purely struck shot executed just as he envisioned it, a move which he has used to claim over 40 professional wins.

After breaking onto the scene with his first European Tour win in 1996, Westwood was a mainstay in the top 25 of the Official World Golf Rankings from ’97 to much of 2001, but after a promising start, he plummeted to as low as 266th in the world in 2003, just when he should have been entering his prime. He rebuilt his game and scaled the world rankings once again, this time joining elite company in reaching the coveted top spot in golf in 2010 and again in 2011, for a total of 22 weeks. This comeback of sorts is rare in golf, as many players who lose their form never quite recapture the magic they once had. The longevity of Westwood’s career speaks to his fighting spirit and belief in himself, even through the disappointment that golf often thrusts upon its participants.

Westwood’s three runner up finishes in majors hardly paints the picture of his 80 attempts on golf’s grandest stage. He has 11 top fives and nine top threes, all of which are made more heartbreaking by the fact that the ultimate goal remained elusive for the Englishman. He barely missed out on two of the most famous playoffs in major championship history: Tiger Woods edging out Rocco Mediate in maybe the most dramatic U.S. Open ever in 2008, and Bubba Watson’s heroic hook shot from the trees at Augusta to beat Oosthuizen in 2010. These two near misses seem to serve as an unfortunate microcosm for Westwood’s major championship career in that he played a lot of great golf, was often in the mix on Sunday, but ultimately failed to grab a piece of history.

Westwood plays most of his golf overseas, and his relative quietness on the PGA Tour likely contributes to his under appreciation in the United States, as he has just two wins to his credit, one in ’98 and another in 2010. While much focus will always be directed toward his missing major victory, Westwood’s resume is world class, including nine Ryder Cups and a superb singles and team record, three European Tour Golfer of the Year awards in ’98, ‘00, and ‘09, and the all time leading money winner on the European Tour.

In Westwood’s case, it is important not to confuse missed opportunities with failure. His career will finish with many “what-ifs,” but that should not take away from the greatness of it. With a quirky swing and at times a balky putter, Westwood is nonetheless absolutely an all-timer and class act who should be a household name in discussing the last two decades of professional golf.

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