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Opinion & Analysis

10 Things to Know About the 2019 Rules of Golf

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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?

Yes!

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: https://www.rules.golf or this link http://www.usga.org/rules-hub/rules-modernization.html.

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 golfrules.com (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 [email protected].

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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.

17 Comments

17 Comments

  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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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: The softest forged irons you’ve never heard of and the Cobra RadSpeed hybrid!

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Ever heard of New Level Golf? If you are looking for wildly soft players irons, then you should check them out. The PF-1 blades and the PF-2 cavity backs are as soft as anything on the market right now. Great irons for skilled players.

The Cobra RadSpeed hybrid is a solid mid/high launching hybrid with a solid Cobra feel and sound. Pretty neutral-bias ball flight with only a slight draw.

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Opinion & Analysis

The future of club fitting is going virtual

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Thanks to technology, you can buy everything from custom-made suits to orthotics online without ever walking into a store or working in person with an expert.

Now, with the help of video and launch monitors, along with a deeper understanding of dynamics than ever before, club fitting is quickly going virtual too, and it’s helping golfers find better equipment faster!

What really took so long?

The real advancements started in the coaching world around a decade ago. What used to require heavy cameras and tripods now simply requires a phone and you have a high-definition slow-motion video that can be sent around the world in a matter of seconds.

Beyond video, modern launch monitors and their ability to capture data have quickly turned a guessing game of “maybe this will work” into a precision step-by-step process of elimination to optimize. When you combine video and launch monitor elements with an understanding of club fitting principles and basic biomechanics, you have the ability to quickly evaluate a golfer’s equipment and make recommendations to help them play better golf.

The benefits of virtual fitting

  • Any golfer with a phone and access to a launch monitor can get high-level recommendations from a qualified fitter.
  • Time and cost-saving to and from a fitter. (This seems obvious, but one of the reasons I personally receive so many questions about club fitting is because those reaching out don’t have access to fitting facilities within a reasonable drive)
  • It’s an opportunity to get a better understanding our your equipment from an expert.

How virtual fittings really work

The key element of a virtual fitting is the deep understanding of the available products to the consumer. On an OEM level, line segmentation makes this fairly straightforward, but it becomes slightly more difficult for brand-agnostic fitters that have so many brands to work with, but it also shows their depth of knowledge and experience.

It’s from this depth of knowledge and through an interview that a fitter can help analyze strengths and weaknesses in a player’s game and use their current clubs as a starting point for building a new set—then the video and launch monitor data comes in.

But it can quickly go very high level…

One of the fastest emerging advancements in this whole process is personalized round tracking data from companies like Arccos, which gives golfers the ability to look at their data without personal bias. This allows the golfer along with any member of their “team” to get an honest assessment of where improvements can be found. The reason this is so helpful is that golfers of all skill levels often have a difficult time being critical about their own games or don’t even really understand where they are losing shots.

It’s like having a club-fitter or coach follow you around for 10 rounds of golf or more—what was once only something available to the super-elite is now sitting in your pocket. All of this comes together and boom, you have recommendations for your new clubs.

Current limitations

We can’t talk about all the benefits without pointing out some of the potential limitations of virtual club fittings, the biggest being the human element that is almost impossible to replicate by phone or through video chat.

The other key factor is how a player interprets feel, and when speaking with an experienced fitter recently while conducting a “trial fitting” the biggest discussion point was how to communicate with golfers about what they feel in their current clubs. Video and data can help draw some quick conclusions but what a player perceives is still important and this is where the conversation and interview process is vital.

Who is offering virtual club fittings?

There are a lot of companies offering virtual fittings or fitting consultations over the phone. One of the biggest programs is from Ping and their Tele-Fitting process, but other companies like TaylorMade and PXG also have this service available to golfers looking for new equipment.

Smaller direct-to-consumer brands like New level, Sub 70, and Haywood Golf have offered these services since their inception as a way to work with consumers who had limited experience with their products but wanted to opportunity to get the most out of their gear and their growth has proven this model to work.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Why wedge mastery is so elusive

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I have conducted numerous surveys of golfers over my 40-year golf industry career, because I have always believed that if you want to know what people are thinking, you simply have to ask them.

As a gearhead for wedges and a wedge designer over the past 30 years, most of my research and analysis is focused on these short-range scoring clubs and how golfers use them. What this research continually tells me is that most golfers—regardless of handicap–consider the wedges the hardest clubs in the bag to master. That’s because they are. I would even go so far as to say that the difficulty of attaining mastery even extends to the best players in the world.

Watching the Genesis Open this past weekend, for example, it seemed like these guys were hitting wedge approaches on nearly every hole. And while there were certainly many shots that covered the flag—like Max Homa’s approach on 18–there were also a great number that came up woefully short. Not what you would expect when a top-tier tour professional has a sand or gap wedge in their hands.

The simple fact is that wedges are the most difficult clubs in our bags with which to attain consistent shotmaking mastery, and that is because of the sheer design of the clubhead itself. For clarity of this article, I’m talking about those full- or near full-swing wedge shots, not the vast variety of short greenside shots we all face every round. To get mastery of those shots (like the tour pros exhibit every week), you simply have to spend lots of time hitting lots of shots, experimenting and exploring different techniques. There are no shortcuts to a deadly short game.

But today I’m talking about those prime opportunities to score, when you have a full- or near-full swing wedge into a par-five or short par four. We should live for those moments, but all too often we find ourselves disappointed in the outcome.

The good news is that’s not always all your fault.

First of all, you must understand that every wedge shot is, in effect, a glancing blow to the ball because of the loft involved. With 50 to 60 degrees of loft—or even 45 to 48 degrees with a pitching wedge—the loft of the club is such that the ball is given somewhat of a glancing blow. That demands a golf swing with a much higher degree of precision in the strike than say, an 8-iron shot.

I have always believed that most golfers can improve their wedge play by making a slower-paced swing than you might with a longer iron. This allows you to be more precise in making sure that your hands lead the clubhead through impact, which is a must when you have a wedge in your hands. Without getting into too much detail, the heavier, stiffer shaft in most wedges does not allow this club to load and unload in the downswing, so the most common error is for the clubhead to get ahead of the hands before impact, thereby adding loft and aggravating this glancing blow. I hope that makes sense.
The other aspect of wedge design that makes consistent wedge distance so elusive is the distribution of the mass around the clubhead. This illustration of a typical tour design wedge allows me to show you something I have seen time and again in robotic testing of various wedges.

Because all the mass is along the bottom of the clubhead, the ideal impact point is low in the face (A), so that most of the mass is behind the ball. Tour players are good at this, but most recreational golfers whose wedges I’ve examined have a wear pattern at least 2-4 grooves higher on the club than I see on tour players’ wedges.

So, why is this so important?

Understand that every golf club has a single “sweet spot”–that pinpoint place where the smash factor is optimized—where clubhead speed translates to ball speed at the highest efficiency. On almost all wedges, that spot is very low on the clubhead, as indicated by the “A” arrow here, and robotic testing reveals that smash factor to be in the range of 1.16-1.18, meaning the ball speed is 16-18% higher than the clubhead speed.

To put that in perspective, smash factor on drivers can be as high as 1.55 or even a bit more, and it’s barely below that in your modern game improvement 7-iron. The fact is—wedges are just not as efficient in this measure, primarily because of the glancing blow I mentioned earlier.

But–and here’s the kicker–if you move impact up the face of a wedge just half to five-eights of an inch from the typical recreational golfer’s impact point, as indicated by the “B” arrow, smash factor on ‘tour design’ wedges can be reduced to as low as 0.92 to 0.95. That costs you 40 to 60 feet on a 90-yard wedge shot . . . because you missed “perfect” by a half-inch or less!

So, that shot you know all too well—the ball sitting up and caught a bit high in the face—is going fall in the front bunker or worse. That result is not all your fault. The reduced distance is a function of the diminished smash factor of the wedge head itself.

That same half-inch miss with your driver or even your game-improvement 7-iron is hardly noticeable.

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