The R&A - Working for Golf

New Rules of Golf, Changes Explained


The introduction of the modernised Rules of Golf in January 2019 saw the roll out of the biggest set of changes to the Rules in a generation. With a change of such magnitude, some challenges were always likely during the transition period.

In anticipation, the early part of the year saw The R&A visiting every region of the world and attending golf competitions at all levels of the game, refereeing and educating on the Rules, and finding the reaction to the new code to be very positive. 

Of course, some of the new Rules have divided opinion. The knee high dropping procedure and putting with the flagstick in the hole have both attracted considerable comment, but that does seem to be on the wane as everyone becomes more familiar with these changes – and we are getting great feedback from club level on the time saved with the flagstick Rule.

Caddie positioning

The new Rule on caddie positioning created some issues at the elite level, but the governing bodies moved quickly to issue a clarification on Rule 10.2b(4) when we became concerned that new Rule might result in more penalties than we had anticipated. 

The R&A’s and USGA’s goal with Rules modernisation was to make the Rules easier to understand and apply for all golfers. Every change we made in the new Rules had a purpose. We wanted to reduce penalties, improve pace of play, make the procedures more consistent, but also ensure that the longstanding principles and challenges of the game were retained.

Positive comments

While it is only a handful of changes that have created controversy, this has resulted in many very significant and popular amendments being overlooked. We are hearing a huge amount of positive comment on how much easier it is to take relief, the 3-minute ball search, the ability to repair damage on putting greens, the removal of penalties for hitting the ball more than once, accidental deflection and moving the ball during search, and the relaxation of the Rules when playing a ball from a bunker or a penalty area.

These changes, along with the golfer focused presentation of the Rules in the Player’s Edition and The R&A’s Rules App, with diagrams, quizzes and a visual search, means that the new Rules are less intimidating and more player friendly.

To explain the rationale behind the changes to the dropping procedure and flagstick Rules, the need for the clarification on caddie positioning, and to clarify a couple of other popular misconceptions on the new Rules, we have created a short explanatory video at the top of this page.