Here at Hole19 HQ, being the golf lovers that we are, we've made a point of scribbling 1st January 2019 into our golfing diaries.
Not only is it the annual date for those optimistic New Years golf resolutions (which usually last for around two weeks max), but it also heralds in some pretty major golfing rule changes.
For a game that is constantly considering how to increase its popularity, golf was always in need of a little freshening up of the rulebook and, as if by magic, here are some of the rule change headliners.
Repair spike marks
Excuses for missed putts could soon be a thing of the past given that a golfer can now repair spike marks on the putting green, as well as other damage. This came as a bit of a double-edged sword for the passionate (some would say overtly temperamental) Englishman Tyrrell Hatton who responded by tweeting:
So I’ve just read we will be able to tap down spike marks next year?!— Tyrrell Hatton (@TyrrellHatton) March 12, 2018
What the hell am I meant to blame then? Got 8.5 months to think of something I guess 👀 pic.twitter.com/WCpc7mJ9hZ
Putt with flagstick in
No longer will you have to get one of your buddies to attend the flagstick when you are putting and the penalty for hitting an unattended flagstick has been scrapped.
Ground club in a hazard
It will now be allowed for a golfer to ground his or her club in a hazard - including bunkers - and to remove loose impediments.
Not so fast, though. When you're in a sand trap it will only be acceptable to ground the club when away from the ball (i.e. before addressing). This ruling, in particular, might have helped Dustin Johnson back at the 2010 USPGA Championship at Whistling Straits:
No more than 40 seconds to take a shot
On a few occasions already this year Tour golfers have been embroiled in controversies over the length of time taken before they hit their shots (J.B. Holmes and Kevin Na are two which spring to mind immediately). It doesn't really help the image of the game and certainly doesn't make for great TV.
From 1st January the USGA and R&A are suggesting 40 seconds to take your shot.
Dropping procedure rethink
For a long time, many have been of the belief that having to drop the ball from shoulder height was quite an unnecessary rule. In the initial updated rule proposals, it was suggested that a drop could be from any height above one inch.
After much deliberation, "the powers that be" have now settled on a drop from above knee height.
No penalty for accidentally moving the ball on green
Another current golfing rule which reared its ugly head and threatened to derail a Dustin Johnson charge for major glory back in 2016 was the penalty for accidentally moving the ball on the green.
The current world number one eventually went on to claim his maiden major without much fuss at Erin Hills, but the controversy rumbled on for months after the event.
Thankfully, there will be no such penalty (or threat of penalty) moving forwards.
Only three minutes to look for a lost ball
As already alluded to above, the pace of the game has been a hot topic for quite a few years now. The amended rules due to come into force at the turn of the year allow for no more than three minutes to look for a lost ball - down from five.
We think it's a positive change; let's be honest, we were probably never gonna find the darn thing anyway.
Automatically allow the use of distance measuring devices
One rule due to come into force in 2019 is that you will be allowed to use a distance-measuring device unless there is a local rule prohibiting it.
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If you want to have a more in-depth look at the rule changes you can do just that right here.
What do you think of the changes? Do you think USGA and the R&A should have gone further? Any rule changes you don't like? Let us know below.
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