Rulebook: “Welcome To The New Age, To the New Age…” – The New Rules of Golf, Part 2

w/ Rich McLean

Hey, if Sir Nick Faldo can quote Imagine Dragons lyrics, so can I.

Before we get started, I have a correction for my last column to report. The magazine went to print just before the official announcement came out from the USGA/R&A, so there’s a minor difference to what I wrote at the time. The new dropping rule now specifies that you’ll drop a ball from knee height while standing up (aka, not crouching), and not “from any height” as was originally proposed.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look at some of the other changes we can expect for 2019.

1. The dreaded Double-Hit. The current rule for accidentally hitting your ball in motion, after you’ve already made a stroke at it, is to count the original stroke and then add another penalty stroke, for a total of two. Starting next year, if you accidentally hit your ball twice during your stroke, it’s all good. Count the stroke, but no more additional penalty! NOTE: before you go out and start practicing your “T.C. Chen”, I did say accidental. There’s still a rule in place to cover purposely striking your ball in motion. That will net you an additional two strokes.

2. We’ll file this next one under “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Originally, the powers-that-be proposed to change how a player measures the area in which they could drop a ball from club lengths, to a fixed distance of 20 or 80 inches. Cooler heads prevailed, and the more traditional one or two club lengths option was retained, and the 20/80 idea was scrapped (along with my million-dollar idea, by the way). However, this is where the similarities between old and new diverge. Currently, you can measure your proposed dropping area with any of the 14 clubs in your bag. Starting in 2019, a player will be required to measure their dropping area with the longest club in their bag that is not a putter. Meaning that for most, it will be their driver.

3. Next up, what you’ll be able to do in penalty areas (formerly water hazards). Today, you are not allowed to either ground your club or remove loose impediments in a water hazard without incurring the appropriate penalty. Next year, you’ll be able to do both of those things without having to count extra strokes on your card! Just be careful when grounding your club that you don’t also improve your area or line of play. The rationale here is that these areas are already tough enough to play from, there’s very little to be gained by grounding clubs, removing (or dislodging during your swing) loose impediments.

4. Speaking of loose impediments, you’ll be able to remove them from bunkers too in 2019! Again, sand is already hard enough to play from without having to deal with leaves, sticks, stones, etc. And, if you still don’t feel like playing out of a bunker, there’s yet another new rule that will let you take your ball out of it and drop it behind to play from the grass! It’ll cost you 2 strokes to do it, but I know some of my buddies would gladly take that deal and still come out ahead.

5. Off we go to the green. Remember, you need to remove the flagstick from the hole before you putt from the green or risk a 2-stroke penalty if your ball hits it… until next year, that is. New for 2019, putting with the flagstick in the hole! No more marking your ball, walking to the hole to remove the flagstick, walking back to hit your putt, placing the flagstick back in the hole. Just putt and go! Now you don’t have to leave the flagstick in the hole when putting, but now there’s a penalty-free option to leaving it in. I’ve tried it a couple of times myself, and it takes some getting used to, but if it helps to speed up the game I’ll take it.

Well, that’s a few more we’ve checked off the list for this issue. More to come. But, enough for now. It’s Springtime! Go play!

/ Rich McLean
Rich McLean is Golf Canada Level 4 Referee from Kanata, Ontario. He calls himself “a lifelong player, and fan of this great game.” You can find him on Twitter, @LobWedge. “Golf has given me so much joy, and this is my small way of giving back.  Have fun. Play smart. Play well.”