Rules of Golf Update

Golf’s new ’Rules’ have been published by The R&A and the USGA ahead of coming into effect on January 1, 2019. Golf clubs in Great Britain and Ireland should now have received their copies of the Player’s Edition of the Rules of Golf, which will serve as the primary publication for all golfers.

These are the biggest set of changes to the Rules in a generation with the aim to make golf more accessible and in tune with the way modern sport is played.

Some of the key changes in the new Rules include new procedures for dropping the ball when taking relief, the elimination or reduction of several penalties, relaxed putting green and bunker rules, and rules that encourage improved pace of play.

The changes will also have an impact on running competitions. Therefore, committees should be considering the following points when planning for 2019:

Course marking

From 2019, water hazards will be known as penalty areas with the default marking as red as the opposite margin option is no longer available under the Rule. The committee should be considering whether any existing yellow water hazards should be marked as red penalty areas. The committee will also be able mark other areas not containing water as penalty areas.

Entry forms (terms of the competition)

Generally, compiling an entry form will not change and will involve establishing eligibility criteria, entry requirements and dates, format, how ties will be decided and so on. But it is worth noting that what were known as ‘conditions of competition’ before will now be ‘terms of the competition’, but anything that carries a penalty will be a local rule.

Local rules

It will be necessary to ensure that the wording of any local rules is consistent with the wording provided in Section 8 of the Committee Procedures.  Terminology of some local rules will change (for example, water hazards are now penalty areas) so amendments to scorecards and notices may be required.

Pace of play

There is no requirement to change policies already in place. However, it is worth noting that the new Rules actively encourage Ready Golf in a safe and responsible way and committees may wish to encourage this for stroke-play competitions. Equally, adopting a policy to assist with pace of play is recommended.

This is just a quick summary of some of the key points to consider. But you can read more and find complete guidance on these matters in the new Official Guide to the Rules of Golf. This is available on The R&A website and as an app, with the printed version being released in November.