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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. ChipNRun

    Jan 4, 2019 at 1:53 pm

    A recurring argument for altering the OB rule has to do with the explosion of upscale housing development golf courses. OBs coincide with “fairway frontage” for homes.

    Courses built prior to the 1960s tended to be on a rectangular plot of land. You might face OB on six or seven holes. The housing development courses changes all that, as the developers wanted as many homes as possible to have “fairway frontage” in their front or back yards. That means OB everywhere!

    My current home course is such a boxed-in development layout. In all, 14 holes have OB left and hazard right. Two other holes have OB on one side, and one of the only two “clean” holes has a pond in front of the green.

    Two years ago, some neighboring courses turned most of their OB zones into hazard areas. The idea was to lessen slow play by people having to return to the tee box and rehit drives.

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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

Could Dollar Driver Club change the way we think about owning equipment?



There’s something about golfers that draws the attention of, for lack of a better word, snake-oil salesmen. Whether it’s an as-seen-on-TV ad for a driver that promises pure distance and also fixes your power slice, or the subscription boxes that supposedly send hundreds of dollars worth of apparel for a fraction of the price, there always seems to be something out there that looks too good to be true.

Discerning golfers, who I would argue are more cynical than anything, understand that you get what you pay for. To get the newest driver that also works for your game, it may take a $150 club fitting, then a $400 head, and a shaft that can run anywhere from $100 up to $300-$400. After the fitting and buying process, you’ve made close to a thousand dollar investment in one golf club, and unless you’re playing money games with friends who have some deep pockets, it’s tough to say what the return on that investment actually is. When it’s all said and done, you have less than a year before that driver is considered old news by the standard of most manufacturers’ release schedules.

What makes a driver ‘good’ to most amateur golfers who take their game seriously is a cross section of performance, price, and hubris. As for that last metric, I think most people would be lying if they say it doesn’t feel good having the latest and greatest club in the bag. Being the envy of your group is fun, even if it only lasts until you snap hook your first drive out of bounds.

As prices of general release equipment have increased to nearly double what it was retailing at only 10 years ago, the ability to play the newest equipment is starting to become out of the question for many amateur golfers.

Enter Tyler Mycoskie, an avid, single digit handicap golfer (and the brother of Tom’s shoes founder, Blake Mycoskie). Tyler’s experience with purchasing golf equipment and his understanding of uniquely successful business models collided, which led him to start the Dollar Driver Club. With a name and logo that is a tongue in cheek allusion to the company that has shaken up the men’s skincare industry, the company seeks to offer a new way of thinking about purchasing golf equipment without completely reinventing the wheel of the model that has seen success in industries such as car leasing and purchasing razors.

The company does exactly what its name says. They offer the newest, top of the line driver and shaft combinations for lease at a cost of about a dollar per day.

The economics of the model seem too good to be true. When you purchase a driver, you are charged $30 plus $11 for shipping and it’s $30 per month from then on. You can upgrade your driver at no extra cost each year and your driver is eligible for upgrade or swap after 90 days of being a member. After a year, the total cost comes to $371 with shipping, which sounds a lot nicer than the $500 that it would cost to purchase, as an example, a Titleist TS3 with a Project X Evenflow T1100 today.

The major complaint most people would have is that you still don’t own the driver after that year, but as someone with a closet full of old golf clubs that diminish in value every day, which I have no realistic plans to sell, that doesn’t sound like a problem to me or my wife, who asks me almost weekly when I plan on thinning out my collection.

The model sounds like an obvious win for customers to me, and quite frankly, if you’re skeptical, then it’s probably just simply not for you. I contacted the team at the Dollar Driver Club to get some questions answered. Primarily, I want to know, what’s the catch?

I spoke with a Kevin Kirakossian, a Division I golfer who graduated from the University of Texas-Pan American in 2013 and has spent virtually his entire young career working on the business side of golf, most recently with Nike Golf’s marketing team prior to joining Tyler at Dollar Driver Club. Here’s what he had to say about his company.

At risk to the detriment of our conversation, I have to find out first and foremost, what’s the catch?

K: There’s no catch. We’re all golfers and we want to offer a service that benefits all of our members. We got tired of the upfront cost of drivers. We’re trying to grow the game. Prior to us, there was no way to buy new golf clubs without paying full price. We take a lot of pride that players of all skill level, not just tour pros or people with the extra budget to drop that kind of money every year, can have access to the latest equipment.

With that question out of the way, I delved into the specifics of the brand and model, but I maintained a skeptical edge, keeping an ear out for anything that I could find that would seem too good to be true.

How closely do you keep an eye on manufacturers and their pricing? It would seem that your service is more enticing as prices increase in equipment.

K: The manufacturers are free to create their own pricing. We work closely with manufacturers and have a great relationship with them. As prices increase, it helps us, even if they decrease, I still think it’s a no-brainer to use our service, purely for the fact that new equipment comes out every year. You don’t have a high upfront cost. You’re not stuck with the same driver for a year. It gives you flexibility and freedom to play the newest driver. If a manufacturer wants to get into the same business, we have the advantage of offering all brands. We’re a premium subscription brand, so we’re willing to offer services that other retailers aren’t. We’ll do shaft swaps, we’ll send heads only, we have fast shipping and delivery times. We’re really a one-stop shop for all brands.

What measures do you take to offer the most up to date equipment?

K: We will always have the newest products on the actual launch date. We take pride in offering the equipment right away. A lot of times, our members will receive their clubs on release day. We order direct from the manufacturers and keep inventory. There’s no drop shipping. We prefer shipping ourselves and being able to add a personal package.

The service is uniquely personal. Their drivers come with a ball marker stamped with your initials as well as a stylish valuables pouch. They also provide a hand signed welcome letter and some stickers.

Who makes up the team at Dollar Driver Club?

K: We’re a small team. We started accepting members to our service in 2018 and it has grown exponentially. We have four or five guys here and it’s all hands on deck. We handle customer inquiries and sending drivers out. It’s a small business nature that we want to grow a lot bigger.

When discussing the company, you have to concede that the model doesn’t appeal to everyone, especially traditionalists. There are golfers who have absolutely no problem spending whatever retailers are charging for their newest wares. There are also golfers who have no problem playing equipment with grips that haven’t been changed in years, much less worrying about buying new equipment. I wanted to know exactly who they’re targeting.

Who is your target demographic?

K: We want all golfers. We want any golfer with any income, any skill level, to be able to play the newest equipment. We want to reshape the way people think about obtaining golf equipment. We’re starting with drivers, but we’re looking into expanding into putters, wedges, and other woods. We’ve heard manufacturers keep an eye on us. There are going to be people who just want to pay that upfront cost so they can own it, but those people may be looking at it on the surface and they don’t see the other benefits. We’re also a service that offers shaft swaps and easily send in your driver after 3 months if you don’t like it.

At this point, it didn’t seem like my quest to find any drawbacks to the service was going well. However, any good business identifies threats to their model and I was really only able to think of one. They do require a photo ID to start your account, but there’s no credit check required like you may see from other ‘buy now, pay later’ programs. That sounds ripe for schemers that we see all the time on websites like eBay and Craigslist.

When you’re sending out a $500 piece of equipment and only taking $41 up front, you’re assuming some risk. How much do you rely on the integrity of golfers who use your service to keep everything running smoothly?

K: We do rely on the integrity of the golf community. When we send out a driver, we believe it’s going into the hands of a golfer. By collecting the ID, we have measures on our end that we can use in the event that the driver goes missing or an account goes delinquent, but we’re always going to side with our members.

The conversation I had with Kevin really opened my eyes to the fact that Dollar Driver Club is exactly what the company says it is. They want to grow and become a staple means of obtaining golf equipment in the current and future market. Kevin was very transparent that the idea is simple, they’re just the ones actually executing it. He acknowledged the importance of social media and how they will harness the power of applications like Instagram to reach new audiences.

Kevin was also adamant that even if you prefer owning your own driver and don’t mind the upfront cost, the flexibility to customize your driver cheaply with a plethora of high-quality shafts is what really makes it worth trying out their service. If for whatever reason, you don’t like their service, you can cancel the subscription and return the driver after 90 days, which means that you can play the newest driver for three months at a cost of $90.

In my personal opinion, I think there’s a huge growth opportunity for a service like this. The idea of playing the newest equipment and being able to tinker with it pretty much at-will really speaks to me. If you’re willing to spend $15 a month on Netflix to re-watch The Office for the 12th time in a row or $35 a month for a Barkbox subscription for your dog, it may be worth doing something nice for your golf bag.

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Opinion & Analysis

A conversation with a Drive, Chip and Putt national finalist



I’ve been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend all of the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National since the inception of this amazing initiative. I’ve also been extremely lucky to have attended the Masters each of the past 10 years that I have been a PGA member. Each year, I’m still like a kid on Christmas morning when I walk through the gates at Augusta National, but nothing compares to my first trip in 2010. I was in absolute awe. For anyone that’s been, you can surely agree that Augusta National and the Masters Tournament is pure perfection.

The past few years at DCP finals, I couldn’t help but notice the looks of sheer excitement on the faces of the young competitors as well as their parents. That led me to reaching out to one of this year’s competitors, Briel Royce. A Central Florida native, Briel finished second overall in the 7-8-year-old girls division. She is a young lady that I know, albeit, not all too well, that competes in some of my youth golf organization’s Tour series in Florida. I spoke to Briel’s mom at Augusta and then reached out to the family after their return to the Orlando area to get a better idea of their DCP and Augusta National experience…

So how cool was it driving Down Magnolia Lane?

Briel: “Driving down Magnolia Lane was awesome.  Usually, you do not get to experience the scenic ride unless you are a tour player or a member. Everyone got extremely quiet upon entry. There were tons of security along our slow ride. Seeing the beautiful trees and the Masters Flag at Founder’s Circle in the distance was surreal. Having earned the right and opportunity to drive down this prestigious lane was breathtaking. I would love to do it again someday.”

What was the coolest part of your time at Drive, Chip and Putt at Augusta National?

Briel: “Everything was cool about the DCP. Not too often do you see people taking walks in the morning with green jackets on. We were not treated like kids. We were treated like tour players, like we were members at Augusta. The icing on the cake was when they took us to the practice green and we were putting alongside Zach Johnson and Charl Schwartzel. Everyone was confused when we first got there because we weren’t certain we should be putting on the same green around the pros. Again, we were treated like we were tour players. Where else would I be able to do this? Nowhere other than DCP at Augusta. One of my favorite reflections is having Bubba Watson watch us chip and congratulating each of us for our efforts. He did not need to do that. He took time out of practicing for a very important week in his career to support the DCP players. I think his actions show what the game of golf is about: the sportsmanship, the camaraderie, and support.”

How did you prepare for the finals?

Briel: “I prepared just like I did for every other tournament, practicing distance control, etc. But to be honest, you really can’t practice for this experience. The greens are like no other. The balls roll like they are on conveyor belts. I didn’t practice being in front of so many cameras, Bubba Watson, Condeleeza Rice as well as many other folks wearing green jackets. You need to practice playing under extreme pressure and scrutiny. When it is game time, you need to just do your thing and concentrate; have tunnel vision just like the ride down Magnolia Lane.”

What tour pros did you get to meet and talk to?

Briel: “WOW! I spoke to so many tour pros while I was there. I spoke to Keegan Bradley, Annika Sorenstam, Nancy Lopez, Zach Johnson, Mark O’Meara, Gary Player and Patrick Reed. I also met up with the U.S. Woman’s Amateur Champion, Jennifer Kupcho, and 14-year-old baller Alexa Pano. I’m still in awe!”


How fast were those greens?

Briel: “Those greens were lightning quick. The balls rolled like they were on a conveyor belt; you didn’t know when to expect them to stop. Had I practiced these speeds a little more, I would have putted the 30-foot like a 15-foot and the 15-foot like a 6-foot putt.”

I also wanted to ask Briel’s parents a few questions in order to get a better idea from the standpoint of the mom and dad, on what an increasable experience this must have been.

So how cool was it driving up Magnolia Lane for you guys?

Mom and Dad: “Going down Magnolia Lane was a dream come true and we wouldn’t have EVER been able to do it without Briel’s accomplishment. Driving down was so peaceful; the way the trees are shaped like a tunnel and at the end of that tunnel, you see the Masters Flag and Founder’s Circle. Just thinking about all the legends, presidents, influential people driving down that road and we were doing the same thing was extraordinary. We appreciated how slow the driver took to get us down the lane for us to take it all in. A lot of tears. It was heavenly.”

What was the coolest part during your time at Drive, Chip and Putt and Augusta National?

Mom and Dad“The coolest part was seeing 9-year-old Briel compete at Augusta National! Seeing the whole set up and everything that goes into making this event what it is, we have no words. They made these kids feel like they were royalty. We are so truly blessed, thankful, and grateful for everything that was provided to Briel to make this a truly awesome experience. We don’t want to share too much as it needs to be a surprise to anyone else that’s reading this that may make it there.”

How impactful do you feel this initiative is to golf in general?

Mom and Dad: “You can’t possibly make any bigger impact on golf than to let golf’s future attend the best golf course and the coolest event, Drive, Chip and Putt at none other Augusta National during Masters week. The day after the event, we had a handful of people walk up to Briel to tell her that she was an inspiration to their older daughters who now want to play golf. They even requested a picture with Briel; how cool! This initiative is definately, without question, growing the game.”

It goes without saying that you were incredibly proud of your daughter but what may have surprised you most on how she handled this awesome experience?

Mom and Dad: “We are so incredibly proud of Briel! She handled this challenging and overwhelming experience very well for only being 9 years old. She was cool, calm and collected the whole time. The atmosphere at Drive, Chip and Putt can chew you up if you let it, but she didn’t let all of the distractions get to her, she embraced them.  Out of all the competitions she participated in to earn her invitation to Augusta, we truly feel she treated this whole experience like she was not at a competition but a birthday party where she was having a blast. She made many new golf friends and we met amazing golf families we anticipate spending more time with in the future. You don’t get to go to many parties where Bubba Watson is hanging out with you like he’s your best friend.”

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The 19th Hole (Ep 76): Rees Jones on how Tiger won at Augusta and will win at Bethpage!



The Open Doctor Rees Jones talks with host Michael Williams about the key holes that shaped Tiger’s win in Augusta and his chances for victory at Bethpage Black in the PGA Championship. Also features John Farrell of Sea Pines Resort (host of this week’s RBC Heritage Classic) and Ed Brown of Clear Sports.

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

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19th Hole