Rule of the Month: Change is Good
By OGA Senior Rules Officials: Pete Scholz and Terry McEvilly
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Change is Good
Beginning this month, the focus of the Rule of the Month articles will change as we begin to explore the changes to the Rules of Golf that become effective on January 1st, 2019. For your convenience, the 2019 version of the Rules can be viewed, downloaded and printed at USGA.org.
As long as there have been Rules, there have always been Rules that many golfers have considered senseless and not necessary. Yet, the complexity of the game, played outdoors over a wide variety of terrain and conditions, required in-depth detail to cover the multitude of possible scenarios to level the playing field and to anticipate where players might gain an advantage or be disadvantaged. The USGA and the R&A, the two governing bodies for the game worldwide, have spent more than five years on a joint project to modernize and simplify the Rules. A tremendous amount of effort and cooperation have gone into this project. It was a complex project as it was important to maintain the core values, integrity and traditions that make golf the wonderful game that we all cherish. And as we enter into a new world of Rules, we applaud the dedication and seriousness of purpose that the USGA and R&A put forth in their efforts. This month we highlight some of the major changes.
- When a player is required to drop a ball, it must be dropped from knee height or higher.
- If a stroke from the putting green accidentally hits the flagstick in the hole, there is no penalty.
- After marking, lifting and replacing the ball on the putting green, wind blows it to a new location. The ball must be played from its new location.
- There is no penalty for double hitting the ball during a stroke.
- Unless prohibited by a Local Rule, an embedded ball may be lifted and dropped anywhere on the course without penalty.
- A ball must be treated as lost if not found within 3 minutes of the time the player or caddie begins to search for it.
- There is a one-stroke penalty when a player or the player’s equipment is accidentally hit by his or her golf ball after a stroke.
- A player must not touch the ground with a club prior to making a stroke in a penalty area (formally known as a water hazard).
- In a competition with no Local Rules in place, one option for a ball that comes to rest out of bounds is to drop within two club-lengths of where it crossed the out of bounds line with a two stroke penalty.
- A player may lift a ball to identify it without announcing their intentions to another player.
- False. Rule 14.3b. A dropped ball must be dropped from knee height and must fall straight down. Dropping from higher than the knee and playing results in a one-stroke penalty. Tossing or rolling the ball is also not permitted.
- True. Rule 13.2a. A player may now leave the flagstick in the hole for a stroke from anywhere on the course including the putting green. If the ball hits the flagstick there is no penalty and the ball is played as it lies.
- False. Rule 13.1d(2). Generally, when wind moves a golf ball, it must be played from its new location as wind is considered a natural force. However, one exception to this is when the player has marked, lifted and replaced the golf ball on the putting green. If anything, including wind or water, moves the ball, it must be replaced on its original spot.
- True. Rule 10.1a. The one-stroke penalty for a double hit has been eliminated and the player must accept the result of his or her shot and play the ball as it lies when it comes to rest.
- False. Rule 16.3a. In 2019, free relief for an embedded ball has been expanded to cover all of the general area, formally called through the green. But certain prohibitions still apply, such as when the ball is embedded in sand in an area that is not cut to fairway height or less. Additionally, there is no free relief for an embedded ball in a penalty area or a bunker.
- True. Rule 18.2a. In an attempt to speed play and keep the competition flowing smoothly, the time allowed to search for a ball has been reduced to three minutes. The three minutes allowed for the search begins when either the player or caddie begins to search for the ball. If the ball is not found within the allotted time, it is considered lost even if found on the course shortly after the three minutes have expired.
- False. Rule 11.1a. The penalty for accidentally being hit with your own golf ball after a stroke has been removed. The player must accept the result of the stroke and proceed accordingly.
- False. Rule 17.1b. If the player elects to play the ball from the penalty area there are no specific Rules that apply. Rather, the same Rules apply as when a ball is in the general area. The player may touch the ground with a hand or club and even make practice swings that touch the ground. Please note, this Rules does not apply to Bunkers as they are covered under the own Rule (Rule 12).
- False. Rule 18.2a. The only option when a ball is out of bounds is the stroke and distance procedure by playing a ball from where the previous stroke was made. However, the Committee may now enact a Local Rule permitting players to continue playing (under a two-stroke penalty) from near where the ball went out of bounds.
True. Rule 7.3. The requirement to announce has been removed and the player may now lift a ball to identify it without informing anyone of his intentions. If it is reasonably necessary to lift the ball for the identification, the player must mark the spot of the ball before lifting it and must not clean the ball more than what is necessary to identify it. If a player lifts without it being reasonably necessary to do so, lifts without marking or cleans the ball more than necessary, he or she incurs a one-stroke penalty.