USGA Golf Rules

The United States Golf Association (USGA), which is essentially the controlling entity for the rules of golf, made quite a stir in the golf world this year when they instituted several major rule changes. These rule changes officially went into effect on January 1, 2019 and are designed to speed up the pace of play for us amateur golfers. In theory, it sounds like a great idea because we all hate having to deal with a slow pace of play that can lead to 5+ hour rounds on the weekends. But how will these rule changes affect your game? With the weather finally warming up, we’re all anxious to get back out onto the course. However, if you intend to follow the sport’s new rules, now would be a good time to get a refresher on the key rule changes implemented over the winter. Let’s take a look at the most important rule changes that you should know before your next round.

 

No Need To Remove The Flagstick While Putting

 

This is the rule change that has been the most talked about so far. It’s a substantial change in that there is no longer a penalty to putt the ball with the flagstick still in the hole. Yes, now you can just ram the ball in and let it bounce off the flagstick and (hopefully) in the hole. Some professional players have already begun taking advantage of this rule change. For example, Adam Scott has been putting lights out this year and credits a lot of his newfound putting confidence to leaving the flagstick in. The USGA believes allowing players to keep the flagstick in will, in turn, speed up the pace of play as there will no longer be delays of removing and replacing the flagstick. I personally will continue to remove the flagstick, but it’s very liberating for players to now have the choice.

 

Drop The Ball From Knee Height

 

This rule has changed several times over the course of golf history, but the USGA finally seems to have gotten the right idea now. Whenever you need to take a drop now in 2019, you may drop the ball from knee height. This lowers the required height, as it was previously dropped at approximately shoulder height. The rule is designed to prevent the likelihood of a dropped ball rolling out of the designated relief area and thus requiring another drop. Again, this is a rule change designed to increase the pace of play, but it can be done in a way that can give you better lies on relief drops.

 

Only Three Minutes To Find Lost Ball

 

One of the key things that can slow down the pace of play significantly is when a player continues to search for their lost ball for far too long. We have all played with that person who refuses to admit their ball is lost, despite searching for almost 10 minutes. The new rule reduces the amount of time to find a lost ball from five minutes to three minutes. While the rule says that if you have not found the ball within three minutes, that it’s deemed lost, hopefully your playing partners don’t actually have you on a time watch.



Fixing Damage On The Putting Greens

 

Good news, it’s no longer a penalty stroke for fixing damage on the green that is in your putting line.  If you’re like me, you have probably been doing this even prior to the official rule change because you don’t want your putt getting bounced off line by a ball mark or spike damage.  This one probably doesn’t affect most of you, but it’s another notable rule change to keep in mind as you head back out to your local course this spring!

 

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