Rule of the Month: Everything Old is New Again | Oregon Golf Association

Rule of the Month: Everything Old is New Again

By OGA Sr. Rules Officials: Pete Scholz and Terry McEvilly
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2019 New Rules

Even though the definitions section of the Rules of Golf has been moved from the front to the back of the Rule book, it doesn’t mean the definitions are of any less importance. We’ve long maintained that a player who understands the definitions is well underway to understanding the Rules, and that is even more true as we enter into a brave new world with the 2019 Rules of Golf.

Many old familiar definitions and phrases no longer exist under the new Rules. Gone are “water hazard”, “fellow competitor”, ‘burrowing animal”, “casual water”, “line of putt”, “nearest point of relief”, “rub of the green”, “through the green” and “outside agency”. But even as we had to say goodbye to those old friends, a bunch of new kids arrived on the block and it’s time to make new friends.

What better way to start the new year than to become familiar with some of the newcomers? This month’s quiz focuses on some new definitions. And yes, we realize we used the word “new” five times in the prior two lines.

Also, after completing this month’s quiz, we recommend you take a look at some of the other new definitions that were too long to include in this article such as “Nearest Point of Complete Relief”, “Abnormal Course Condition”, “Penalty Area” and “Relief Area”. If you have not yet done so, do yourself a favor and download the USGA Rules App – it’s not only free, but is amazing in its simplicity and search function.

Questions: True/False

  1. The 2019 definition of “Honour” has basically the same meaning as the prior definition of “Honor”.
  2. “Improve” is a new definition for 2019 – it means to have one’s game improve over time.
  3. The definition of “Lie” has been added to the Rule Book because it is something frequently done on the course when it comes to reporting a score taken for a hole.
  4. “Club-Length” is a new definition and refers to the length of the longest club in your bag excluding a putter.
  5. “General Area” is an estimated place on the course where a ball might be lost.
  6. “Natural Forces” covers a wide variety of reasons as to why a ball at rest may have moved, but does not include gravity.
  7. “Outside Influence” refers to a player that may have over imbibed on the course and may lead to someone driving under the influence.
  8. The definition of “Animal” includes humans.
  9. A “Flagstick” is a movable pole provided by the Committee that is placed in the hole to show you where the hole is.
  10. “No Play Zone” is a phrase we made up just to see if you are paying attention.


  1. True. While the wording is slightly different, it still refers to the right to play first from the “teeing area” (which itself replaced the definition of “teeing ground”). We used this question to point out that you will see some spelling oddities in the 2019 Rules of Golf book, such as the word “practise”. No, the Book was not poorly edited. A style of English known as International English was used for the book, which is why you will see some unfamiliar spellings.
  2. False. To “Improve” means to alter one or more of the conditions affecting your stroke or other physical conditions affecting your play so that you gain a potential advantage for your stroke.
  3. False. If the word “Lie” comes up a lot with your normal playing group, you might want to look for new friends. Under the Rules, “Lie” refers to the spot on which your ball is at rest and any growing or attached natural object, immovable obstruction, integral object, or boundary object touching your ball or right next to it. Loose impediments and movable obstructions are not part of the lie of a ball.
  4. True. A “Club-Length” is the length of the longest club of the 14 (or fewer) clubs you have during the round (as allowed by Rule 4.1b(1)), other than a putter. For example, if the longest club (other than a putter) you have during a round is a 43-inch (109.22 cm) driver, a club-length is 43 inches for you for that round. The definition is important to note for times when you are required to measure something, such as a “Relief Area”, another definition you may want to take a look at.
  5. False. The “General Area” is the area of the course that covers all of the course except for the other four defined areas: (1) the teeing area you must play from in starting the hole you are playing, (2) all penalty areas, (3) all bunkers, and (4) the putting green of the hole you are playing. This new definition replaced “Through the Green”.
  6. False. “Gravity” has finally found a home in the Rules of Golf. “Natural Forces” are defined as the effects of nature such as wind, water or when something happens for no apparent reason because of the effects of gravity.
  7. False. “Outside Influence” is any of these people or things that can affect what happens to your ball or equipment or to the course: Any person (including another player), except you or your caddie or your partner or opponent or any of their caddies, any animal, and any natural or artificial object or anything else (including another ball in motion), except for “Natural Forces”.
  8. False. An “Animal” is any living member of the animal kingdom (other than humans).
  9. True. The actual definition of “Flagstick” is word for word what is in the question. We included it as an example of how much effort has been made to simplify the language and style of writing used in the Rules.
  10. False. We would never try to trick our loyal readers, who have made our monthly articles the most clicked on links at A “No Play Zone” is a part of the course where the Committee has prohibited play. A no play zone must be defined as part of either an abnormal course condition or a penalty area.

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