New Golf Rules “Fore” 2019

Professional golfers will be able to take advantage of several new rule changes coming in the new year. 

In golf, the rule book is thick and, for most players, generally harder to read than a ruling from the courts.  Average players tend to be aware of the “biggies”, but most of us generally understand that some issues just aren’t worth getting upset about.

Changes in the rules of golf come rather infrequently and extremely slowly.  The game is considered a “gentleman’s game”, but what that really means is “Golfers shouldn’t cheat”.   Many golfers have called infractions upon themselves even when their playing partners didn’t see one occur.

If you have watched much golf on television over the past few years, you have seen how the rules of golf have even cost some players (I’m talking about you, Dustin Johnson) a major championship.  Simple things can cause the loss of one or more strokes and a victory.

Let’s take a look at a few of the key changes coming in 2019:

  1.  Forty seconds to hit your shot – I am “all in” on this change.  How often do we see golfers line-up a shot or putt from every conceivable angle and then go through a routine that, if disturbed, must be started over from the very beginning?  My only beef on this change is that it should be thirty seconds instead of forty.
  2.  Three minutes to find a lost ball – This rule used to be five minutes.  If a player hits a ball which literally disappears in the rough (it happens), then the ball usually will not turn-up whether the golfer, caddy, and others take three, five, or more minutes.  Three is fine.  Get on with it!
  3.  You can putt with the flag in  – This one is interesting.  The PGA’s resident physics major, Bryson DeChambeau, has already declared that he intends to leave the flagstick in for most putts.  He said, “It depends on the COR, the coefficient of restitution of the flagstick.”  He believes that the PGA’s fiberglass flagsticks are thin enough that putts hitting the stick are more likely to fall in the hole rather than bounce out.  This guy is a smart cookie, so I wouldn’t be surprised to the see other tour players follow suit!
  4.  A caddie is not allowed to stand on a line behind you while you are taking your stance and until your stroke is made – An excellent change!  Too often do we see PGA players depend on their caddie to line-up a putt.  Worse, the ladies of the LPGA have been using caddies to stand behind the ball to line-up their shots from the tee box and fairway, too.  I’ve considered that a form of cheating for years.  Bravo!
  5.  You are not penalized for accidentally moving your ball on a putting green – How many times have we seen a ball move due to wind or an accidental misplacement of a ball being marked?  This is a good change, too.  If the intent isn’t to cheat, then it shouldn’t be penalized. 

I’d love to see a pace of play rule to insure that golfers play each nine holes in two hours or less.  I think it should players should receive a two shot penalty for each occurrence.  If you want to see players pick up the pace, a four shot addendum to the score card at the end of the round would surely do the trick!

Maybe that will happen when CBS and other networks tell the players that they must finish their round by “X” time deadline, or the finish won’t be televised at all.

Though I am looking forward to the rule changes at the beginning of the year, I have my doubts that we will see a significant (15-30 minutes less per round) improvement in the pace of play. 

With golf, we’ll take any and all attempts to make the game simpler for all players and still retain the basic requirement of honesty and integrity. 

Fore-ward and onward into 2019, golfers!