The USGA and R&A have announced a preview of the proposed new Rules of Golf which will come into effect on the 1st January 2019. There are 24 proposed new Rules, designed to simplify the current 34. The initiative focuses on simplicity, consistency and fairness of the Rules for play.

Overview of the proposed Rule changes

Briefly, the proposed new Rules include the following:

• There will no longer be a penalty for inadvertently moving a ball whether on the putting green or when searching for one. The player will not be deemed responsible for moving the ball unless it is ‘virtually certain’ that they did so.

• There will no longer be a penalty if the putt hits an unattended flagstick in the hole on the green. Players will now be allowed to repair damage to the green surface before taking the shot and there will not be a penalty for touching the line of the putt.

• Penalty areas will be extended to cover jungle, lava rock, areas of desert etc in addition to water hazards. There will also be no penalty incurred for touching the ground or water in the penalty area or for moving loose impediments to play.

• Players will be permitted to move loose impediments in bunkers.

UNIVERSITY PLACE, WA – JUNE 16: USGA rules officials look over the golf course during a practice round prior to the start of the 115th U.S. Open Championship at Chambers Bay on June 16, 2015 in University Place, Washington. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

• If a ball is deemed to be unplayable from within a bunker, it may be played from outside the sand trap, but a two-stroke penalty will be incurred.

• When estimating a spot, line, area, point or distance, a player’s ‘reasonable judgement’ will be upheld, notwithstanding video evidence that subsequently shows it to be incorrect.

• To assist with the pace of play, the time that may be spent searching for a lost ball will now be three minutes instead of the current five. In addition, players may not take more than 40 seconds to play a stroke.

• There will be a new procedure for taking relief. The ball may now be dropped from just above ground level or from above any object on the ground or growing thing.

This is just a summary of the new rules, and players are advised to read the updates in full before heading out onto the course to play in Spain or Portugal and taking advantage of golf club rental and trolley hire for their golfing holiday.

Details of all the proposed changes for January 1, 2019 can be found on The R&A’s website at


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