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2019 Rules Changes - Observations After a Season



One of the big changes in 2019 was the USGA/R&A overhaul of the Rules of Golf.  Our Club runs a series of net tournaments for our members.  Our members range in age from 50 to 94 with handicaps of +1 to 36.  I was a bit pessimistic that our members would be able to accommodate all the Rules changes.  After a season of watching our members play in our Tournaments, here are a few of my observations.

  • The option to leave or remove the flagstick has turned out to be a bit of help on pace of play. In almost every instance, we have left the flagstick in when putting or chipping from a significant distance.  We no longer need to tend or remove the flagstick for a long putt and then replace the flagstick for a chip.  Unless a ball gets in another player’s line, we all just putt or chip without delay.  Once close in, many of us are ambivalent to the flagstick being in or out so if someone wants it in, we all putt with it in, or vice versa.  The few times we have had an “in-out” situation, the first player to hole out serves as the caddie.
  • Most players have gotten used to the knee height drop.  There is a tendency for some players to crouch a bit when dropping.  Whether this is an accommodation for aging backs and legs or a bit of an unconscious “cheat” is unknown.  Unless someone squats down while dropping, I don’t think I am likely to make an issue of this.
  • We have had a bit of confusion over whether the new Local Rule related to lost or O.B. balls was in effect for our events.  It was not.  Still, I have heard anecdotal accounts of some of our higher handicap groups using the Local Rule during our Tournaments.  We will need to make that a point of emphasis next year.
  • Almost nobody uses the term “Penalty Area.” Old habits die hard.  Also, there is still some confusion as to whether a red marked penalty area allows the “back on a line” option (yes) and the yellow marked penalty area the 2-club length option (no).
  • Accidentally moving a ball on the green never happened in my groups.  I am sure it happened during the season but not when I was present.
  • I still have an involuntary twitch when I see someone tamping down scuff or spike marks and other non-pitch mark damage.  I will learn eventually.  Also, I have not witnessed anyone spend an inordinate amount of time repairing the green so my concern that this Rule change might slow things down has not come to pass.
  • A couple likely double hits were seen and it was a relief to not have to ask the player whether they thought they made a double hit. I like this change.
  • Some players are likely not following the “relief area” limitation when a ball rolls after a drop judging from what I have seen.  Under the old Rules a ball could roll 2 additional club lengths. We may need to review that with our club members.
  • The ability to move loose impediments in a penalty area or bunker is used by our players.  No one has made an issue thinking this was a penalty.
  • Accidentally moving a ball during a search was never an issue when I played.  I think this Rule is ripe for abuse but I have not seen it.

All in all, our aging members seemed to have picked up on most of the changes.  All the effort put in by the USGA, our State Association and our Club seems to have worked.  Of course, there are a lot of nuances to the Rules that I and my fellow members likely missed or forgot.  Still, the transition went a lot better than expected.

What has been your experience?


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Your observations are all most identical to my observations with the golf partners I've played / paired with this year.   There is one exception.   The older couple (75+) that I play golf with on Fridays are very adamant about pulling the flag stick.   I take a Pepsi from them each week (play lowest number of putts).  I've showed them the reports but they won't budge.   We still play in about 3 1/2 hours.   Other people I play with have started to enjoy the faster pace of play from leaving the flagstick in the hole.  

Nobody calls "them" penalty areas.   We still have sand traps, water hazards and anything else but definitely not penalty areas.  

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So I've not experienced very many times this year where the flagstick has been an issue.  Most people are leaving it in and that does improve pace of play a little.  Occasionally someone wants it out on shorter putts but at that point no one really cares and everyone goes along.  Today I played in a tournament with threesomes: one person wanted it out all the time, one wanted in sometimes and out sometimes, one (me) wanted it in at all times.  That was a mess.

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Where do you play in Missouri?

New Rule 1.2:

1.2 Standards of Player Conduct a. Conduct Expected of All Players All players are expected to play in the spirit of the game by: • Acting with integrity – for example, by following the Rules, applying all penalties, and being honest in all aspects of play. • Showing consideration to others – for example, by playing at a prompt pace, looking out for the safety of others, and not distracting the play of another player. • Taking good care of the course – for example, by replacing divots, smoothing bunkers, repairing ball-marks, and not causing unnecessary damage to the course. There is no penalty under the Rules for failing to act in this way, except that the Committee may disqualify a player for acting contrary to the spirit of the game if it finds that the player has committed serious misconduct. Penalties other than disqualification may be imposed for player misconduct only if those penalties are adopted as part of a Code of Conduct under Rule 1.2b.

b. Code of Conduct The Committee may set its own standards of player conduct in a Code of Conduct adopted as a Local Rule. • The Code may include penalties for breach of its standards, such as a one-stroke penalty or the general penalty. • The Committee may also disqualify a player for serious misconduct in failing to meet the Code’s standards.

It appears that the Etiquette section, which was the preamble before Rule 1, has entirely disappeared from the Internet.  I have not been  successful in finding any of the previous sets of rules.

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Someone was really, really busy re-writing the rules.

Frankly, I had not been paying attention, and did not know that was being done, so, when  I started seeing some unusual things on TV and in person, like leaving the flagstick in, I was shocked.

My book is 2006-2007, and that was for a different game, I think.  😎

Of course, when I first started, and played on the high school team, and actually lettered three years, I had a croquet putter, and it was legal.

Edited by Cartboy
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15 minutes ago, Cartboy said:

Ever visit Branson?


OT, but not for golf. Saw the shows and went to silver dollar city when the kids were young. I don’t get out of town very often anymore.  Maybe someday I’ll make time to got watch the PGA Legends of Golf. But for playing, if I can get a couple hours free, I head over to walk my home course.


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Other than the flag stick rule change, I have not seen much difference in the rounds I played last year. 

Some folks still like removing the flag stick. Most leave it in. 

I saw no difference in pace of play. 95% of my rounds were played at what I thought was a satifactory pace. The other 5%, I didn't really worry about. 

I read the new rules, and played with in them to the best of my knowlege.  As for the golfers I met up with, I just let them do their own thing. Most were pretty much compliant I thought. 

Edited by Patch
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On 9/4/2019 at 12:58 PM, dennyjones said:

"A couple likely double hits were seen and it was a relief to not have to ask the player whether they thought they made a double hit. I like this change."

All these years I've been practicing my double hit so I could land the ball from a greater height onto the green with a soft rollout.  At least now I can do it with the rest of the foursome watching.

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