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Opinion & Analysis

Are the 2019 Rules of Golf making the game easier? Here are the old, new and removed penalties



It seems the old-school golfers among us are a bit upset about the new rules for 2019, with some claiming they will make the game easier.

Yes, some penalties have been removed or lessened, but most penalties are still there. And, in fact, quite a few new penalties have been added! Let me stress, that the three lists below are not at all exhaustive. But I find that they give you a realistic insight in the 2019 Rules.

New penalties: These are situations, where you are not penalized under the current rules, but where you will be penalized in 2019

1. If you putt on the putting green with your ball marker still on the ground, in 2019 you incur a one stroke penalty.

2. A golf club can make a “code of conduct,” and you can be penalized (e.g. one or two penalty strokes) for not complying with that. E.g. for not letting through, not raking bunkers etc.

3. When your ball is in a bunker, you get a new option: To take a two-stroke penalty and drop on a “straight line” outside the bunker. I will describe this option in more detail in another article.

4. A club can apply two new local rules, where you can drop closer to the hole (than where you played last) with a two-stroke penalty when your ball is out of bounds or when it is lost (outside a penalty area).

5. You are no longer allowed to substitute a ball for the sole reason that it is out of shape. If you do so, you incur two penalty strokes in stroke play (or lost hole in match play).

6. You are no longer allowed to align your feet with a club e.g. on the fairway (e.g. to have them point in the exact direction you want). If you do so, you incur two penalty strokes in stroke play (or lost hole in match play).

7. You are no longer allowed to mark the ball in front of the ball. If you do so and lift the ball, you will incur a one stroke penalty.

8. You are only allowed to substitute a damaged ball if you are sure the damage happened on the hole you are playing. If you are not sure when it happened, you are not allowed to substitute the ball. If you do so, you incur two penalty strokes in stroke play (or lost hole in match play). You are of course allowed to substitute a ball between holes or when taking relief.

“Old penalties”: These are situations, where you are penalized today and will be penalized in 2019

1. In a bunker: you touch the sand in your backswing.

2. In a bunker: you ground the club just behind the ball.

3. In a bunker: you touch the sand in a practice swing.

4. When you accidentally move your ball in play (with exceptions).

5. When you deem your ball unplayable.

6. When you take relief from water hazards (in 2019: “penalty areas”).

7. When you make practice strokes during play of a hole (with exceptions).

8. When you are playing from a wrong place.

9. When you are playing a stroke to a wrong ball.

10. When you give (or ask for) advice, e.g. club selection.

11. When you improve a “forbidden area,” e.g. by breaking a branch in the area of your intended swing.

12. When you bring more than 14 clubs.

13. When you drop the ball in a wrong way and play it.

Penalties removed: These are situations where you are penalized today, but not in 2019

1. When you make a “double stroke.” One penalty stroke today–no penalty in 2019.

2. When you hole your ball from the putting green with the flagstick in the hole. Two penalty strokes (stroke

play) or lost hole (match play) today–no penalty in 2019.

3. When you remove the flagstick from the hole and place it on the ground… and then strike it in your stroke.

Two penalty strokes (stroke play) or lost hole (match play) today–no penalty in 2019.

4. When your ball is in a bunker, and you ground your club in the bunker somewhere other than in front of or

behind the ball. Two penalty strokes (stroke play) or lost hole (match play) today–no penalty in 2019.

5. When your ball is in a bunker, and your club accidentally touches the sand elsewhere in the bunker. Two penalty strokes (stroke play) or lost hole (match play) today–no penalty in 2019.

6. When your ball is in a water hazard (“penalty area” in 2019) and you want to play it. You touch the water with your club in addressing the ball. Two penalty strokes (stroke play) or lost hole (match play) today –no penalty in 2019.

7. When your ball is in a water hazard (penalty area) or a bunker, and you remove/touch a loose impediment in the water hazard/bunker. Two penalty strokes (stroke play) or lost hole (match play) today–no penalty in 2019.

8. When you accidentally strike and moves your ball during a search for it (within the time limit) in the rough. One penalty stroke today–no penalty in 2019.

9. When you substitute your ball when taking relief without penalty (e.g. when taking relief from a bench or from a ground under repair). Two penalty strokes (stroke play) or lost hole (match play) today –no penalty in 2019.

My impression is that many (both players and golf clubs) underestimate the time and energy needed to learn the 2019 Rules. Let me end this article by encouraging you to read (and learn) them soon!

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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. Tiger Noods

    Dec 5, 2018 at 12:41 am

    You’re worried about the time it takes to learn them, but you didn’t take the time to proofread your article. Sheesh.

  2. Code

    Dec 2, 2018 at 3:44 pm

    Everyvody’s worried about pace of play yet they let players take off their clothes down to their underwear just so they don’t get them dirty or wet on those shots.
    And then yet clubs supposedly enforce dress code!
    What gives?
    It should be in the Rules for 2020 that at no time clothing may be removed to the underwear for any particular shot.
    Otherwise why have a dress code

    • Tigergor

      Dec 3, 2018 at 6:03 am

      Or, get rid of dress codes. Better solution.

      Sounds like you might have an agenda un related to golf?

  3. Charles Hine

    Nov 30, 2018 at 4:32 pm

    You CAN mark your ball in front of the ball and lift without penalty. Interpretation 14.1a/2

    Marking Ball Correctly

    Rule 14.1a uses “right behind” and “right next to” to ensure the spot of a lifted ball is marked with sufficient accuracy for the player to replace it in the right spot.

    A ball may be marked in any position around the ball so long as it is marked right next to it, and this includes placing a ball-marker in front of or to the side of the ball.

  4. Major Peace

    Nov 30, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    #3 Rule if you remove the flag and purposely place it in such a way as to restrict the distance your ball can go past the hole, how will this be managed.

    • George

      Nov 30, 2018 at 2:07 pm

      A flagstick deliberately positioned or left in a particular place to deflect or stop the ball is treated as a deliberately deflected or stopped ball by a person -> general penalty i.e. 2 penalty strokes or loss of hole AND the stroke made does not count and has to be replaced (in stroke play of course) on its original spot. R13-2b
      That is, if the stroke was made from the putting green. From outside the putting green you’d have to place the ball on the estimated spot on the green where it would have come to rest.

      • George

        Nov 30, 2018 at 2:08 pm

        the general penalty would also apply from outside the putting green

  5. Rich Douglas

    Nov 30, 2018 at 11:46 am

    They should have gotten rid of OB entirely and played it all like a lateral water hazard. (Many people not playing in competitions do this anyway.) There are some silly situations where holes are squeezed into spaces and there’s simply no room for error. OB is supposed to be saved for huge misses, but it’s used in a lot of places to make holes more difficult. By playing it as a lateral, you eliminate the stroke-and-distance, retaining the stroke penalty. This speeds play and makes many holes more playable.

    • Mharr

      Dec 1, 2018 at 9:23 am

      Besides the change that they have eliminated “lateral” hazards (they are all just hazards now), the new local rule (if adopted at your course) actually gives you better relief, as you can drop anywhere between the OB and the fairway, not just 2 club lengths.

    • Rube

      Dec 2, 2018 at 10:55 pm

      There aren’t enough OBs, actually. Especially on Tour.

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Opinion & Analysis

How important is playing time in college if a player wants to turn pro?



One of the great debates among junior golfers, parents and swing coaches is what is the most crucial factor in making the college decision. My experience tells me that many students would answer this question with a variation of coaching, facilities and of course academics (especially if their parents are present).

I would agree that all three are important, but I wanted to explore the data behind what I think is an often overlooked but critical part of the process; playing time. For this article, I examined players under 25 who made the PGA tour and played college golf to see what percent of events they participated in during their college career. In total I identified 27 players and through a combination of the internet, as well as conversations with their college coaches, here are the numbers which represent my best guess of their playing time in college:

Player Percent of Events

  • Justin Thomas 100%
  • Rickie Folwer 100%
  • Xander Schauffele 100%
  • Bryson DeChambeau 100%
  • Jon Rahm 100%
  • Patrick Reed 91%
  • Jordan Speith 100%
  • Beau Hossler 100%
  • Billy Horschel 100%
  • Aaron Wise 100%
  • Daniel Berger 100%
  • Thomas Pieters 95%
  • Ryan Moore 100%
  • Kevin Tway 98%
  • Scott Langley 95%
  • Russell Hendley 100%
  • Kevin Chappell 96%
  • Harris English 96%
  • JB Holmes 100%
  • Abraham Ancer 97%
  • Kramer Hicock 65%
  • Adam Svensson 100%
  • Sam Burns 100%
  • Cameron Champ 71%
  • Wydham Clark 71%
  • Hank Lebioda 100%
  • Sebastian Munoz 66%

Average: 94%

Please note that further research into the numbers demonstrate that players like Pieters, Munoz, Clark, Reed, Hicock, Langely, Reed and Champ all played virtually all events for their last two years.

This data clearly demonstrates that players likely to make a quick transition (less than 3 years) from college to the PGA tour are likely to play basically all the events in college. Not only are these players getting starts in college, but they are also learning how to win; the list includes 7 individual NCAA champions (Adam Svensson, Aaron Wise, Ryan Moore and Thomas Pieters, Scott Langley, Kevin Chappell, and Bryson DeChambeau), as well 5 NCAA team champion members (Justin Thomas, Jordan Speith, Beau Hossler, Patrick Reed, Abraham Ancer and Wydham Clack) and 2 US Amateur Champs (Bryson DeChambeau and Ryan Moore).

As you dig further into the data, you will see something unique; while there are several elite junior golfers on the list, like Speith and Thomas who played in PGA tour events as teenagers, the list also has several players who were not necessarily highly recruited. For example, Abraham Ancer played a year of junior college before spending three years at the University of Oklahoma. Likewise, Aaron Wise, Kramer Hickok and JB Holmes may have been extremely talented and skillful, but they were not necessarily top prospects coming out of high school.

Does this mean that playing time must be a consideration? No, there are for sure players who have matriculated to the PGA Tour who have either not played much in college. However, it is likely that they will make the PGA tour closer to 30 years of age. Although the difference between making the tour at 25 and 30 is only 5 years, I must speculate that the margin for failure grows exponentially as players age, making the difference mathematically extremely significant.

For junior golfers looking at the college decision, I hope this data will help them understand the key role of playing time will have in their development if they want to chase their dream of playing on the PGA Tour. As always, I invite comments about your own experience and the data in this article!

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Hidden Gem of the Day: Republic Golf Club in San Antonio, Texas



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 pdaero, who takes us to Republic Golf Club in San Antonio, Texas. The course is situated just ten minutes from downtown San Antonio, and pdaero gives us some excellent insight into what you can expect should you make the trip here.

“My favorite golf course to play, it is always in really good shape. These pictures are from wintertime, which the greenness is still impressive. The course has a ton of fun holes and unique designs, and only houses visible on 4 tee and between 14 green and 15 tee.

The course rating is strong, with a 74.2 rating on a par 71 (7007 yards from the tips), and even from the second tee you get 1.3 strokes.”

According to Republic Golf Club’s website, the rate for 18 holes during the week ranges from $29 to $49, while the weekend rate ranges from $35 to $69.

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

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Opinion & Analysis

An interview with State Apparel’s founder Jason Yip



For the past five years, Jason Yip has been building an apparel company that redefines the purpose of golf wear. With a strong background in innovation from his days in Silicone Valley, Yip wanted to reinvent golf apparel to be a functional tool for the golfer.

The other day, I had the pleasure of talking with Mr. Jason Yip about State Apparel and a little about himself. It is not every day that you get to speak with someone who can exude passion through the phone. On this day, though, I could hear the passion Jason has for golf, California, and for State Apparel.

Yip said State Apparel has two major foundations

  1. Functional innovation
  2. Social responsibility

Jason loved talking about watching Tiger Woods. However, he watched for something I believe few ever have. How was Tiger wiping the dew and the grass off his clubs, hands, and ball? The answer that Jason observed was that Tiger and others are utilizing their clothing as wiping surfaces. The core of State Apparel is the functionally located wiping elements on your article of clothing. The staple of the brand is their Competition Pants which have wiping elements located on the cuffs, side pockets, and rear pockets.

State Apparel recognizes the need to be socially responsible as a company. This seems to be from Jason’s earlier days of playing golf behind a truck stop in Central Valley, California.

How is the State Apparel socially responsible? Yip identified three ways.

  • Production is done in San Francisco.
  • Most of their apparel utilizes sustainable fabric.
  • Proud supporter of the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance.

Jason’s desire is to provide not only apparel that is golf specific but also the experience that we have on the golf course. A little over a year ago the State Apparel Store and Urban Clubhouse opened on Filmore Street in San Francisco, California.

“I wanted to provide the golfing experience closer to the home of many golfers in the area,” Yip told me.

Among the State Apparel clothing at the store, there is an indoor hitting by with launch monitor. And they have even hosted speaking events with local professionals and architects at the clubhouse.

At the end of our conversation I asked Jason, what would he say to someone who knows nothing about State Apparel, especially those of us not in California?

His answer

“State Apparel is a unique authentic brand that is designed specifically for golfers by a golfer. Look at the product because it is something you have never seen and absolutely communicate on what you see or what you have questions about.”


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19th Hole