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Tom Gorman on the latest Golf Rules


As a member of the PGA of America Rules Committee, I would like to make our readers aware of the reasons behind all the rule changes. First, it has been a seven-year process between the USGA and the R&A Golf Association.  They had finally realized that something needed to be done. Golf takes too long to play and is a very difficult game. Most the rule changes were directed to correct some of these issues.  To implement these changes the Rules had to be completely re-written.  

The new Rule book has 24 Rules vs. 34 Rules in the old book.  The Decision Book went from more than 1,200 Decisions to 400 plus Decisions with 400 eliminated and 400 incorporated into the Rules and Definitions. The Game had to be sped up and made more player friendly.  Here are some major changes in the Rules that have addressed these two issues.


Increasing the Pace of Play Rule 18.2- When a ball is lost A ball is lost if not found in three minutes after the player or his/her caddy begins to search for it.  The old Rule used to allow five minutes.


Rule 13.2a - Player may leave the flagstick in the hole. The player may make a stroke with the flagstick left in the hole so that it is possible for the ball in motion to hit the flagstick. This rule definitely saves time as someone does not have to tend the flagstick.


Marking the golf course: By definition a penalty area is any body of water, but now any other part of the course the committee defines as a penalty area may be marked as such, so a player can take his relief with a one shot penalty and move on.  This eliminates the need to play a provisional ball.


Pace of Play: Rule 5.6d1- Pace of Play is now a separate category. The Rule states that a player should make a stroke in no more than 40 seconds after he or she is able to play, without any interference of distractions. Also Rule 5.6b2 states that a player may play ready golf even in Match Play if players agree to play out of turn.  By following these changes, all golfers should be able to finish any round in under four hours.


Making the Game more player friendly and eliminating outdated, unfair and nonsensical Rules

Rule 7: Replacing a ball that has been accidentally moved The player gets no penalty if the ball is accidentally moved in trying to find or identify. But the ball must be replaced to its original spot with no penalty.


Rule 13.1c2: Repairing damage on putting green caused by a person or outside influence with no penalty. This means ball marks, spike marks and scrapes can now be repaired. Also animal tracks and hoof indentations can also be repaired. Each player should have the same playing field.


Rule 13.2a: Playing out of a bunker A player may now remove loose impediments and moveable obstructions and in so doing, may touch the sand, all without penalty. This Rule applied both during a round and while play is stopped.


Rule 17.1b: Playing in a penalty area. A player may play a ball as it lies in a penalty area (formerly know as a water hazard) under the same rules that apply to a ball in the general area (fairway).  You can ground your club, remove loose impediments and remove any moveable obstruction that interferes with your lie or your swing. This is so much fairer.


These are just some of the changes that should make 2019 a much better year for golf. To follow up on these and some of the other 22 major changes, log on to

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