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Opinion & Analysis

Getting a grip on golf’s new rules

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Okay, you’ve heard a lot about the 2019 Rules of Golf — for way more than a year now.  And lately, you’ve seen or heard some odd things happening on the pro tours. 

You’ve seen Sergio get DQd under new Rule 1.2a for a player misconduct offense which, by the way, could very well have happened under old rule 33-7 as well. You saw Rickie suffer a double wet ball penalty at the Phoenix Open after placing his previously dropped ball near a penalty area’s edge, which unbeknownst to some would clearly have happened under the old rules too. You’ve seen Denny McCarthy get a penalty under new rule 10.2b(4) at that same tournament for beginning to take his stance while his caddie was behind his line of play. (That happened on Friday, and then on Saturday, the penalty was rescinded). And you’ve heard about Haotong Li get that same penalty at the Dubai Desert Classic, and have it stick.

So, with all the change, confusion and tension in the air, what’s the average guy or gal supposed to do as their club competitions swiftly approach? I’d suggest taking a deep breath, and maybe do some studying while the weather’s still cold. 

These are the biggest rules changes in 35 years, and they deserve some attention. But as you look into this deeper, don’t panic. In fact, if you limit your search time to three minutes, and don’t have to take a drop, replace your ball which moved on the green, or replace a club, you will probably come in with a valid score using the old rules. The trouble is, you may end up charging yourself for penalties which are no longer in force. 

Also, if you do have to take a drop, and you haven’t studied up, you probably should panic a little because you’ll likely be in some hot water. Any way you slice it, there’s something in it for you to study the new rules.   

There are lots of ways to get adjusted to all this, each with an upside and a downside. Here’s a list of options to consider

Sign up for a PGA/USGA Rules of Golf Workshop

There are still more than a dozen around the country which will be held between now and the end of March. They are three and a half days long, or just three days long if you skip the big test and subsequent review session on the fourth day. Here’s a link to the schedule of places and dates

Upside: A thorough education from the best instructors in the country

Downside: A cost of $350, and may be too intense for some people

Sign up for an Allied Golf Association Seminar

Many of the USGA’s partner golf associations are holding seminars on the rules this spring. There are 60 or so associations around the country which run tournaments and process handicaps, yours may be offering one soon. You can find your association here.

Upside: Free or inexpensive, and close by

Downside: They generally don’t have time to get into all the nuances

Visit the USGA’s Rules Hub Online

Here’s a link to the USGA’s rules resources.

There, and elsewhere on their website, all three new rulebooks can be viewed for free (hard copies can be purchased for a modest cost). There are a ton of useful videos, infographics, charts, quizzes, and white paper comparisons to the old rules (with explanations as to why the rules were changed). There are also updated “clarifications” to the new rules, which now include a clarification of what happened to Denny McCarthy in Phoenix, and what should happen in regard to that rule to the rest of us later this year.

Upside: Free, and seemingly limitless in scope

Downside: Where to get started can be a bit of a mystery, and having someone organize your education for you as is done in a seminar can be quite helpful

A Semi-Self-Serving Last Thought

I’ve just published a very short book about adjusting to the new rules. It’s written specifically for people who were comfortable with the old rules and just want to concentrate on what has changed. It contains a long list of things you may now do which you couldn’t do before, a shorter list of things you used to be allowed to do but can’t do any longer, and a “cheat sheet” on the somewhat complicated variations of the new “relief areas” in which you must drop every time you drop a ball. It’s not only short, it’s small too, about the size of the “Player’s Edition of the Rules of Golf” so it can be carried alongside that rulebook in your golf bag. It’s called “Get a Grip on the 2019 Rules of Golf,” and it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and ebook versions.  

I mention this as being self-serving because it certainly is, but I amended it to “semi” self-serving because on March 1 and March 2, I’ve arranged for GolfWRX readers to download the ebook version for free (it’s free on those days only).  Here’s the link.

 

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Howard J. Meditz is the author of "Get a Grip on the 2019 Rules of Golf," available on Amazon. He has been a referee for the United States Golf Association, the Metropolitan Golf Association, the Woman’s Metropolitan Golf Association, the Westchester Golf Association, and the American Junior Golf Association. He is a member of the Metropolitan Golf Association’s Rules and Competitions Committee and has been awarded “the highest level of rating” in knowledge of the Rules of Golf by the PGA of America and the USGA, and holds their “Expert” Rules Certification for the 2019 Rules of Golf. He writes a regular rules column for the Connecticut State Golf Association’s "CSGA Links" magazine, is a Featured Writer for GolfWRX.com, and a member of the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association. He is also the author of "How to Love the Rules of Golf." He can be reached at [email protected]

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Kevin Carter

    Feb 25, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    Great job Howie, and I am enjoying your book. Wonderful head start!

  2. Jamie

    Feb 24, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    Make trivial rule changes, charge an insane fee to learn about them. Mafioso.

  3. D

    Feb 23, 2019 at 11:44 am

    3 words about some of the changes everybody hates:

    Di-Sas-Ter.

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Much has been written and speculated about this question, both in popular media and by junior golfers and their parents and coaches. However, I wanted to get a more definitive answer.

In collaboration with Dr. Laura Upenieks of Baylor University, and with the generous support of Junior Tour of Northern California and Aaron R. Hartesveldt, PGA, we surveyed 51 players who were committed to play college golf for the 2021 year.

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