The New Rules Of Golf

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In 2019 we saw amazing new courses & destinations, new equipment, new friends and most importantly, new rules! One thing remains the same – it’s the same great game we are playing. At the recent PGA of South Africa Rules Seminar, we discussed the new rules of golf.

There are 20 main changes to the rules of golf and all of them are really interesting. I’ll discuss only a few that stands out and how we apply them to our “Local Rules” we have on the our Golf Safari and African Golf Collage.

Lost Ball:
You are only allowed to search for a ball for a duration of three minutes. Previously it was five minutes. One of our “Local Rules” on our journeys is that if you lost a ball, you are welcome to drop in the area you believe it to be lost. One stroke penalty and you do not have to walk back to where you hit from. Adding to this rule: if you are looking for the ball in the thick African Bush Grass and accidentally move it when you step on it, you can now put it back without penalty. Golf Pro Opinion: I like this new three-minute rule as it speeds up play. I’m just a bit concerned about some ‘foot-wedges’ when looking for a ball when no-one is watching!

Drop from knee-height:
In the event that you have to drop your ball onto a relief area, you have to do so from the height of your knee. Golf Pro Opinion: There is an advantage to this one as you have more control over the eventual lie the ball will have after the drop. It also prevents the ball from rolling out of its designated area and therefore promotes quicker pace of play.

Accidentally hitting yourself or equipment:
You now do not receive penalties for hitting yourself or your equipment by accident. An example would be if the ball hits a tree and then touches you, you are not penalized any more. It’s probably because it hurt enough already! Golf Pro Opinion: This one is open for a bit of discussion and a grey area… Imagine a really fast downhill putt and you leave your wedges on the other side on the fringe of the green. The wedges will stop the ball and you can claim that it was not your intention to hit your clubs. Was it really an accident that the clubs were hit?

Coming out of the thick Kikuyu grass typically found on South African courses, it’s quite normal to accidentally strike the ball again just after it left the club from the first hit. Now you do not receive the penalty anymore. Golf Pro Opinion: Happy with this one! I’ve experienced this a few times when playing that spinning chip shot. The Kikuyu Grass can easily bounce the ball away from the intended target or start the ball on an unwanted path.

Touching the sand in a bunker: You were previously not allowed to touch the sand with your club at all. Now the rules are a little more relaxed. You are not penalized any more for touching the sand in the back-swing or as you walk into the bunker. You’re stil not allowed to test the sand with practice swings. Golf Pro Opinion: So you are allowed to lean on the club in the bunker but not scrape the sand with the club. Another grey area here as you can clearly get good feedback from the sand condition when leaning on your club.

Unplayable bunker shot: When your ball comes at a rest up against the face of the bunker towards the green and it’s an almost impossible shot, you can now drop back on the line, outside the bunker. It will cost you two strokes! Golf Pro Opinion: This will come in handy when you play a stroke play tournament and you are faced with an impossible shot. We normally play Individual Stable-ford, so I say, take the chance! Maybe that shot was not so hard after all.

The Flag-stick:
Probably one the most talked about changes in the rules. You can now putt with the flag in without a caddie or fellow golfer tending to it. Golf Pro Opinion: I’m on the fence where this rule is concerned. It’s supposed to increase the pace of play, but if a player really wants the flag in the hole while putting, the flag must then be put back for every putt. This actually increases playing time. It’s a good rule for when you are putting from far away and the other players are not close to the hole, so go ahead and play ready golf. Also nice when you chip it really close and tap it in while the flag is still in. Some golfers think there is a bigger chance that the ball will drop with the flag is in, but perhaps this still needs to be tested in all scenarios. I’m sure we’ll hear plenty more about this one!

“Play the course as you find it, play the ball as it lies and do what is fair, and to do what is fair you need to know the rules of golf” – R&A.

Thank you for reading. Hope to see you on the course soon.