New rules effective 2019—Part 1


Now that the R&A and the USGA have announced the final changes to the new Rules of Golf for 2019, I have taken time to digest them and I am ready to offer some initial thoughts.

I do welcome most of the changes, especially those that should help to address what I believe to be the biggest problem facing the majority of amateur golfers – the time taken to play a competition round of 18 holes.

I do not intend to get into specifics about individual rule changes for two main reasons; first, the ruling bodies have done an excellent job of highlighting those changes with videos and explanations on their websites; second, there are nearly seven months before the new rules are implemented.


However, I do encourage those of you who are involved in golf committees to start planning for the changeover, sooner rather than later, as there are many items that should not be left to the end of the year.

For example, most score cards will have to be reprinted, as the Local Rules will almost certainly require several major changes. It is presumed that most clubs will introduce the local rule that provides an alternative to the stroke and distance penalty for a ball that is lost or out of bounds.

This option allows the player to drop in a large area between the point where the ball is estimated to have been lost, or gone out of bounds, and the edge of the fairway at a point that is not nearer to the hole, rather than returning to where they last played from, if a provisional ball was not played.


Another change that needs to be carefully considered is whether other areas of the course are to be considered as penalty areas, which can now be expanded beyond water hazards such as deserts, jungles, or expanses of trees or shrubs.

NOTE: The author is a R&A certified tournament administrator and referee. He is a founding member of the Professional Golfers Association in Malawi, a teaching professional and the Professional Golf Association of South Africa member. For feedback, E-mail: or call 0888 346 510.

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