I have found getting used to the new Rules of Golf to be a bit of a challenge. In time there is no doubt the revisions will become part of my golf process. A number of the changes, however, are not reflexive and I have to consciously think about them.
The easiest new rule to re-learn is having the option to leave the flag in or take it out. Since December I have been playing with the flag stick in. After six rounds, it still looks odd putting from 20 feet or less with the flag in the hole. In casual play I have often left the flag in for long putts but it is reflex to take the flag out on shorter ones. Over time I am confident the presence of the flag will fade into the background but currently it is a distraction.
Dropping from knee height is another one on which I need to re-educate myself. I took a few drops this past weekend (casual water) and I dropped from shoulder height without thinking. At least the USGA/R&A left the measurement for determining the area of relief as a “club length” rather than an inch/centimeter measurement.
Removing loose impediments in bunkers and grounding my club in “penalty areas”, among other new allowances, will just take some practice. At least there is no penalty for not doing either of those things.
Time will tell whether fixing damage to the green becomes a pace of play issue. I have no problem adding careless player’s scuff marks and deer tracks to things we can fix. I have never been meticulous in manicuring the line of my putt but some of my fellow players are. Players slowing to a glacial pace on the green has been an issue with our tournaments. We may need to hand out some pace-of-play penalties early in the season to make a point.
2019 will be my chance to prove that one can teach an old dog new tricks.