As you have heard, a historic reworking of the Rules of Golf came into effect on January 1, 2019. The intent is to make the Rules more understandable and relevant for everyone who enjoys the sport. We have provided below (based largely from the Golf Canada website) some key changes, with examples that every recreational player will want to be aware of. Please be advised that the following is an overview only.
Out of bounds: Imagine you crank your drive into the heavily wooded area on the left of the fairway. Although you are sure you will find it, your playing partner reminds you that you now have only three minutes, not five as under the former Rule, to locate it. Nevertheless, you decline to hit a provisional and walk down to the bush. No luck after the prescribed three minutes. You start the walk of shame back to the tee to accept the stroke-and-distance penalty. Wait, now there will be an alternative in recreational play. Clubs may adopt a Local Rule providing an alternative to the stroke and distance penalty for a ball lost or out of bounds. If adopted, players would have the option of dropping in the fairway area nearest the location where a ball crossed the out of bounds limit or where a ball is deemed to be lost, under penalty of two strokes. This option would not be available in club competitions or matches. Specific wording for the Local Rule will be developed based on Golf Canada recommendations. Stay tuned for more information.
Elimination or reduction of “ball moved” penalties: There will be no penalty for accidentally moving a ball on the putting green or in searching for a ball and a player is not responsible for causing a ball to move unless it is “virtually certain” that he or she did so. To illustrate, say there is a nest of bunkers on the right which always makes you err to the left where, of course, your ball is somewhere in the deep rough. As you are searching, you step on your ball and move it. No penalty under the new Rules! Just replace it where it was originally or estimate the spot if it’s unknown.
Relaxed putting green rules: There will be no penalty if a ball played from the putting green hits an unattended flagstick in the hole, and players may putt without having the flagstick attended or removed. Players may repair spike marks and other damage made by shoes, animal damage and other damage on the putting green, and there is no penalty for merely touching the line of putt.
Dropping the ball: the ball can be dropped from knee height into relief areas.
Relaxed bunker rules: There will be no penalty for moving loose impediments in a bunker or for generally touching the sand with a hand or club. (Provided you’re not testing the condition of the sand). You are still prohibited from touching the sand during a practice swing, or right in front or behind the ball and during your backswing for your stroke. However, an extra relief option is added for an unplayable ball in a bunker, allowing the ball to be played from outside the bunker with a two-stroke penalty. For example, let's say you are playing hole #12 and your ball is right up against the lip of the bunker. What are your options? With a penalty of one stroke, you can drop the ball inside the bunker or, under the new Rules, drop it outside the bunker, taking a two-shot penalty.
Relying on player integrity: A player’s “reasonable judgment” when estimating or measuring a spot, point, line, area or distance will be upheld, and you are no longer required to announce when lifting a ball to identify it or to see if it is damaged.
Pace-of-play support: The time allowed for searching for a lost ball is reduced from five minutes to three. The encouragement of “ready golf” in stroke play and recommending that players take no more than 40 seconds to play a stroke and other changes are intended to help with pace of play.
Remember, the above is just an overview intended to acquaint you with some of the more common changes. We encourage you to visit the Golf Canada website, where you can find all of the new rule changes accompanied with videos. Click to visit the Golf Canada website now. You may also want to pick up the new Player’s Edition of the Rules of Golf. This is an abridged, user-friendly set of the Rules with shorter sentences, commonly used phrases, and diagrams. Written in the “second person,” The Player’s Edition is intended to be the primary publication for golfers.
Be informed, have fun and Love the Game!
~ your Handicap Committee