We’ve all been there. You’ve got a good round going, really smokin’ it. But on the 10th tee, a tight, tough par 4, you overcook it, probably out of bounds. After the new USGA-recommended three minutes of searching, no dice. You could head all the way back to the tee, or you could do what you probably have been doing all along — play the new USGA “local rule” of stroke and distance from the nearest fairway to where your ball disappeared.
That’s just one of many, many changes to the USGA Rules of Golf for 2019, which are clearly meant to speed up play and make it more enjoyable for average players. Here are the Top 10 changes for 2019:
1 – Ball Moved During Search or on the Putting Green
No penalty for accidentally moving your ball during search or on the putting green.
2 – New Procedure for Dropping a Ball
Your ball must be let go from knee height and fall through the air without touching any part of your body or equipment.
3 – Time For Search Before Ball is Lost
Your ball is lost if not found in three minutes (rather than the previous five minutes).
4 – When to Replace a Ball That Moves on the Putting Green
After your ball has been lifted and replaced, if it then moves, always replace it on its original spot even if it was blown by the wind or moved for no clear reason. (Sorry, it’s not retro-active, Dustin Johnson.)
5 – Ball Played From Green Hits Unattended Flagstick in Hole
No penalty if your ball played from the putting green (or anywhere else) hits the unattended flagstick in the hole.
6 – Moving or Touching Sand in aBunker or Loose Impediments
Relaxed Rules relating to loose impediments and touching the ground in a bunker.
7 – Encouraging Prompt Pace of Play
It is recommended that you play “ready golf” and make each stroke in no more than 40 seconds. (YES!)
8 – Maximum Score Form of Stroke Play
A new “Maximum Score” form of stroke play is recognized, where your score for a hole is capped at a max score.
9 – Expected Standards of Player Conduct
The Rules speak directly to the high standards of conduct expected from players.
10 – Local Rule: Alternative to Stroke and Distance
A new Local Rule provides an alternative to stroke-and-distance relief for a ball that is lost outside a penalty area or out of bounds: a two-stroke penalty played from nearest fairway to where your ball was lost.
For a complete look at the USGA’s Rules of Golf, visit www.usga.org.