A Look at the New Golf Rules

“The most significant rewrite of the rules book in more than 30 years.”

The new rules of golf are here. From the 1st January next year, we will be able to play quicker, use simpler rules and have less to worry about.

The USGA and R&A have drafted more than 100 proposed changes to the Rules of Golf. Together with the new World Handicap System, this is the second announcement by the golf authorities in their efforts  to make the game more accessible, more attractive. The presentation of the new rules too carries through this change in attitude. The dedicated website https://www.rules.golf/ is detailed, well organised with helpful graphics and videos. A new writing style, format, and reorganisation of the Rules says “user friendly” – the rules have been brought into the 21st Century.

Do you carry a Rule Book in your bag? Definitely something to add to this year’s Present List when it is available. We have summarised the 36 most significant proposed rule changes as a Checklist – even a summary runs to 7 pages! Do download if you would like to read later.


Early reactions – some quotes

As you can see there is a lot to absorb. Reading through articles and blogs, the first reaction looks positive. Criticism is about small details rather than the totality.

  • “I’m all for adopting these rules at the club level today. It’s about time that we souped up this game. Speed up and Simplify.”
  • “I like a lot of these changes. Especially the ones where you accidentally do something that does not help you in any way, but by the old rules you got penalized for. Like ball in motion accidentally deflected and ball at rest on the green moved. I also like the local rule on lost ball/OB. Oh, and the change to water hazards, or penalty areas, allowing you to move loose impediments and ground your club.”
  • “It’s about time that someone brought some common sense to this game. Too bad they didn’t go farther. They could have included: Move your ball out of a divot, clean mud off your ball, remove an embedded ball from the wall of a sand trap or the ground. It takes a long time to make changes in a historic game.”

I particularly like the next observation!

  • “Well, here you go: on every putt where you cannot basically guarantee that you’re going to leave the putt within 3′ of the hole, leave the flagstick in. That’s my advice.”

It is an interesting point – will the new rules affect the way we play?

What do you think will be the impact on your golf?

A Different view of  the “rules of golf”

Slightly off the point, but an opportunity to share some snippets from an article from The Lady Golfer Magazine https://www.lady-golfer.com/news/golf-still-baffled-millennials/

“The Conference highlighted just how alien millennial women seem to golf clubs, but things are already changing for the better, writes Harriet Shephard.  It came as a surprise to find that the opening presentation was led by a middle-aged man…. He acknowledged that he wasn’t the person who should be commenting on women’s golf. He also pointed out that actually most things in the game are still controlled by men over 50.

“Which is essentially one of the biggest problems.

“When they listed the hurdles that were stopping young women from getting into golf, the rules came up as one of the biggest problems. Which is almost so obvious it doesn’t need saying. How is anyone expected to know that changing your shoes in the car park or wearing a pair of jeans in a clubhouse isn’t allowed?
Generally beginners don’t, until they are reprimanded in a ‘how stupid are you’ kind of way. That’s enough to put anyone off. The rule of not being allowed to hang your coat on the back of a chair was used as an example. This was new information to me and immediately made me panic about all the times when I had inadvertently committed this obviously heinous crime.”

The first Rules of Golf 1744

The first known written Rules of Golf were drawn up in 1744 for a single day of competition played on April 2 on the Leith links. This early code of Articles & Laws in Playing at Golf – the “13 Articles” – was drafted by The Gentlemen Golfers of Leith, who would go on to become The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.

The rules were drawn up at the behest of the City of Edinburgh Council, who had presented the silver club prize and insisted that there had to be rules for the competition. The competition was played over a 5 hole course, each hole being over 400 yds long and was open to all gentlemen golfers in Britain, but only local players participated. The ‘Scots Magazine’ of April 1744 reported the result of the first competition for the Silver Club. Surgeon John Rattray was declared the winner and was awarded the entry money.

Rules 1744

The golfers at St Andrews, who would later become the Royal & Ancient Golf Club St Andrews, adopted the Leith rules for their own competition in 1754. They wrote them into their minutes, with only a small amendment to Rule 5, but strangely they included references to ‘the Soldiers’ lines’ and ‘the Scholars’ holes’ in Rule 13 that only existed at Leith.

275 Years of Change

It is interesting to compare the content of the 1744 Rules with those that will come into force in 2019

1744 Rules
2016 rules
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