New Rules of Golf for 2019; inc knee-height drop, local rule for OB and lost ball

Dropping the ball from knee height, relaxed rules on the green and in bunkers and no penalty for a double-hit are some of the changes to the rules of golf to begin in 2019.

The R&A and USGA have announced the final draft for the new, modernised rules of golf which will come into effect starting January 1, 2019.

While the majority of the rules of golf will stay the same, golf’s governing bodies have made a few major changes concerning the procedure to dropping the golf ball and a new local rule that can be introduced relating to the procedure after losing a ball or hitting out-of-bounds.

The rules are being simplified in order to make it easier to generally play the game and increase the pace of play.

Our first thoughts: The new dropping procedure from knee height will cause a lot of discussion, as will the new local rules option for out-of-bounds and lost balls (although we like it in theory). Removing the penalty for a double hit makes sense, and the new relaxed rules on the putting green, hazards and bunkers are fantastic.

In summary, and according to the press release by the R&A, here are the major changes with more details to be found under the Rules of Golf section of the R&A website. And here at Aussie Golfer in the coming weeks.

  • Dropping procedure:
    When taking relief (from an abnormal course condition or penalty area, for example), golfers will now drop from knee height. This will ensure consistency and simplicity in the dropping process while also preserving the randomness of the drop.
  • Measuring in taking relief:
    The golfer’s relief area will be measured by using the longest club in his/her bag (other than a putter) to measure one club length or two club lengths, depending on the situation, providing a consistent process for golfers to establish his/her relief area. This was originally slated to be a set length but the R&A and USGA have gone with the club length measurement.
  • Removing the penalty for a double hit:
    The penalty stroke for accidentally striking the ball more than once in the course of a stroke has been removed. Golfers will simply count the one stroke they made to strike the ball.
  • Balls Lost or Out of Bounds Alternative to Stroke and Distance:
    A new Local Rule will now be available in January 2019, permitting committees to allow golfers the option to drop the ball in the vicinity of where the ball is lost or out-of-bounds (including the nearest fairway area), under a two-stroke penalty. It addresses concerns raised at the club level about the negative impact on pace of play when a player is required to go back under stroke and distance. The Local Rule is not intended for higher levels of play, such as professional or elite level competitions.
  • 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.
  • Relaxed putting green rules:
    There will be no penalty if a ball played from the putting green hits an unattended flagstick in the hole; 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.
  • Relaxed rules for “penalty areas” (currently called “water hazards”):
    Red and yellow-marked penalty areas may cover areas of desert, jungle, lava rock, etc., in addition to areas of water; expanded use of red penalty areas where lateral relief is allowed; and there will be no penalty for moving loose impediments or touching the ground or water in a penalty area.
  • 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. A limited set of restrictions (such as not grounding the club right next to the ball) is kept to preserve the challenge of playing from the sand; 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.
  • Relying on player integrity:
    A player’s “reasonable judgment” when estimating or measuring a spot, point, line, area or distance will be upheld, even if video evidence later shows it to be wrong; and elimination of announcement procedures when lifting a ball to identify it or to see if it is damaged.
  • Pace of play support:
    Reduced time for searching for a lost ball (from five minutes to three); affirmative encouragement of “ready golf” in stroke play; recommending that players take no more than 40 seconds to play a stroke and other changes intended to help with pace of play.

4 thoughts on “New Rules of Golf for 2019; inc knee-height drop, local rule for OB and lost ball

  • I would have thought that being allowed to move a ball out of an unrepaired divot hole on the fairway would have been more important that dropping a ball from knee height. It’s bad enough in bunkers than to suffer it on fairways as well.

    • Or treating a sand filled divot as GUR. Would at least make players more likely to repair their divots.

  • If you double hit your putt is ther a penalty?

  • Is there a penalty for dropping from above knee high and continuing to play the ball.


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