From the Bunker: 2019 Rules of Golf

Greetings!  My name is Jay Smith.  When I’m not helping clients with financial plans at Gettings Reed, I volunteer as a golf rules official for the Indiana Golf Association.  (A less hostile environment than football and basketball officials experience.) 

In order to make golf more enjoyable, the R&A in Europe and the USGA are giving the Rules of Golf in 2019 their most sweeping changes in history.  We thought it would be fun to highlight the changes on our website each month.  We’ll start with a Summary and then delve into each of the reorganized 24 New Rules as the year progresses.  I might even tie some of them into your financial lives…

Here’s a quick “Nine Changes You ABSOLUTELY Need to Know for 2019” that I borrowed partially from Ryan Herrington at Golf Digest:

  1. Accidentally moving your ball on the green is no longer a penalty.  Remember Dustin Johnson in the 2016 US Open? Just put it back and play on.  (Rule 13)

  2. Fixing spike marks and other damage to the putting green is now permitted.  (Rule 13)

  3. Searching for a Lost Ball is now reduced from 5 minutes to 3 minutes.  Many of the 2019 changes are meant to speed up play.  (Rule 18) 

  4. Dropping a ball back into play is now done from knee-high instead of shoulder-high and always in a defined Relief Area.  This reduces the severity of the bounces that might put the ball in the wrong place.  It’s a compromise because they couldn’t stand to let us just place the ball on the ground.  There’s still an element of randomness which may or may not be a better lie. (Rule 14)

  5. Water Hazards are now called Penalty Areas.  They are still marked with either yellow or red lines or stakes.  The red Penalty Areas don’t even require water now.  You’ll also be able to move Loose Impediments and ground your club in a Penalty Area which were untouchable, previously.  (Rule 17)  (Bunkers are unique to themselves now, and they’re not called Hazards anymore, either.  Stay tuned for more on that under Rule 12 in coming month.)

  6. Playing with a damaged club is now permitted, even if you broke it in anger.  (Rule 4)

  7. A double-hit is not very frequent, but it used to carry a one-stroke penalty for hitting it the second time.  Now, there’s no penalty and only one hit is counted.  It usually ends up in a worse place, anyway.  (Rule 11)

  8. The flagstick may now be left in the hole while putting.  Bryson DeChambeau is the first PGA Tour player to swear by this.  You may have seen it the first week on Tour this year in Hawaii.  (Rule 13)

  9. This last one you probably won’t see on any Tour or in elite competitions.  However, a new Local Rule on Balls Lost or Out of Bounds could be adopted by the course you play to speed things up.  Previously, you had to play a Provisional Ball, or ultimately hit another one from where that stroke was originally made, under the 1-Stroke and Distance Penalty.  The new Local Rule allows you to go forward without hitting a Provisional Ball and also permits you to avoid walking or riding back the distance to play another.  Your new Relief Area to drop a ball, under a penalty of 2 strokes instead of 1 stroke, is anywhere from where you estimate your ball to be Lost or Out of Bounds, over to the nearest edge of the fairway an estimated equidistant from the hole.  Essentially, they’re pretending you hit a good one under the old rule, and it ended up close to the first one or even in the fairway.  The total of 2 strokes is equivalent to the old penalty, and it saves a ton of time.  A lot of recreational golfers have been throwing one done like this for years, anyway.  FORE!