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USGA/R&A Finalize 2019 Rules of Golf

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47 minutes ago, iacas said:

It's not supposed to be used for serious competitions.

That's not how I read the USGA's write up of it:

This Local Rule is not intended for higher levels of play, such as professional or elite amateur level competitions.

To me, that reads state golf association events or higher level events. I'm not sure the USGA means club championships should use this rule.

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1 minute ago, DeadMan said:

To me, that reads state golf association events or higher level events. I'm not sure the USGA means club championships should use this rule.

It means it's up to them.

Were I in charge, depending on the level of play, I might or might not do it.

City-wide amateur championship? No Local Rule.

Club-level flighted event? Local Rule.

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These pretty much all make sense to me.  Not totally sure whether they really make the rules THAT much easier.  But it seems they're a bit easier, and there's definitely a few really nice improvements that clear up things that just made unnecessary penalties for things that didn't unfairly advantage a player, like accidentally touching the sand with your club while walking into a bunker.

I really like the grounding allowed in penalty areas change.  I used to live in LA, where a lot of scrub/brush was marked as a penalty area to allow relief other than lost ball, but where often, especially if you didn't hit it that far into the brush, you had a shot not much worse than from the rough, or at worst like a messy fairway bunker.  It always seemed to me like it made sense to be able to just treat this like a regular shot.  Glad they did that.

And I agree with Erik.  I like making it official that a course is allowed to use an official rule to speed play but still make a score submittable for OB shots where it's ridiculous in a casual round, for pace of play considerations, to go back and re-tee.  Over the years I've gotten in the habit of taking liberal provisionals in order to avoid the situation, but when I've been surprised, I've literally never gone back to re-tee.  I've always played by this new rule, though with a less generous drop area!

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Areas of the Course

When to Replace a Ball Moved on Putting Green - http://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rules-modernization/major-changes/when-to-replace-a-ball-that-moves-on-a-putting-green.html - If the ball has been marked, and moves for any reason, you put it back.

This is an odd one to me, because a ball that's been marked has a different status than a ball that wasn't marked. So two balls, side by side atop a steep slope, could both be blown by the wind into the hole. Or further from the hole. If one had been marked and one hadn't, the differences are substantial. I understand their "reasons for change," and furthermore I get that if you marked your ball you likely have a better idea of where it was. Plus, this keeps the process for a ball that moves accidentally the same (kinda) on the putting green as one moved by wind or whatever.

Except that it doesn't. What if you're taking practice strokes wit your putter near your ball but you didn't mark it. Your ball moves. Was it you causing it to move (i.e. you should replace it), or was it the "wind" from your putter? What do you do then? What if you're not sure? What if the ball rolled into the hole, or off the green into a water hazard?

Maybe I'm overlooking something, but that feels like a conflict.

Hmmmm.


Repairing Damage on the Putting Greenhttp://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rules-modernization/major-changes/repairing-damage-on-the-putting-green.html - You can repair the putting green to your little heart's content (basically). You just can't repair "aeration holes," normal wear on the cup, etc.

Fine. Honestly I don't see spike marks that often, but if someone scuffs their cleats it'll be nice to quickly smooth it out. I just hope people don't take a long time doing a lot of gardening.


Touching the Line of Play on the Putting Greenhttp://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rules-modernization/major-changes/touching-the-line-of-play-on-a-putting-green.html - No penalty for touching the line of your putt.

Okay by me. AimPoint Express users will also be very happy. The stipulation that you not improve your line of play basically means, since you can fix spike marks, etc. that you can't make a trough or build little walls to keep your ball on-line. This shaves three minutes from my AimPoint Express clinics, now. :-)


Ball Played from Putting Green Hits Flagstickhttp://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rules-modernization/major-changes/ball-played-from-the-putting-green-hits-unattended-flagstick-in-hole.html - No penalty.

Stupid. So stupid.

Our research and testing shows pretty clearly that the flagstick is a disadvantage only in two cases: the flagstick leans so much a ball won't fit, and it's windy and the flagstick can knock a ball away with its rocking motion. In all other cases, there's a net of nothing OR a net advantage. At 3' past speed (rough, given different green speeds, slopes, etc.) or less, there's no real advantage or disadvantage. If my college players have a putt from 12' from 1" off the green… I let them take the flagstick out, because they shouldn't be hitting that ball 16' (4' past the hole).

But in all other cases where the ball finishes beyond the hole about 3+ feet, the flagstick is a net advantage.

So, my problems with this are four-fold:

  • The concept of the game has changed. We no longer putt toward holes in the ground, we putt toward "capture" devices. This is more like disc golf now than golf. I will encourage my players, from outside of about 20' where their speeds may be off by 3+' (depending on the level of player), to put the flagstick in the hole. Facing a tricky downhiller that may roll out 6' past if you miss? Leave the flagstick in. Facing a 20 footer and you're not an awesome lag putter? Leave the flagstick in.
  • Pace of play concerns? The opposite may happen! Even if everyone understands the science, a player with an 11-footer uphill may want to remove the flagstick while his opponent, with a slick 10' downhill putt, will want it put back in. And never mind when you have foursomes who disagree - they may take the flagstick out multiple times per hole, on almost every hole.
  • Some types of players, say on a tricky breaking 3' or 4' putt, will have an advantage of being able to take the break out of the putt and firm it into the flagstick. @mvmac made some videos on this. If you're able to control your clubface angle, you can putt the ball pretty firmly and guarantee it will fall. This makes putting those types of putts significantly easier for good putters, while offering almost no advantage to the poorer putters who cannot rely on being able to strike the middle-ish area of the flagstick from four feet away. Doug Sanders wants his putt on the 18th at St. Andrews back, and Scott Hoch wants to re-putt that one at Augusta National.
  • I can almost see a mini arms race where different flagsticks are marketed as being the best for players looking to hole more putts. The rules say only that a flagstick has to be circular and not made of a material that dampens impact (basically), but that's about it. There's technically nothing preventing a flagstick from being 4" across and preventing a ball from falling in (nobody would buy such a flagstick, of course). But I imagine you can build a flagstick that meets the basic definitions and still helps a few more putts fall or stay close, closer than the advantage already gained by striking a current standard fiberglass flagstick, and I can imagine certain other kinds of flagsticks which actually can deter balls at a higher rate being reduced or removed from the market.

I hate this rules change, and cannot believe I'm going to see players tapping in with the flagstick still in the hole, or asking their caddie to put the flagstick in when they face a tricky three-footer.


Penalty Areashttp://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rules-modernization/major-changes/areas-the-committee-may-mark-as-penalty-areas.htmlhttp://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rules-modernization/major-changes/expanded-use-of-red-marked-penalty-areas.htmlhttp://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rules-modernization/major-changes/elimination-of-opposite-side-relief-for-red-pen.html - Water hazards and "hazards" go away. They're now all Penalty Areas, Yellow or Red. The committee may make any area it wants a penalty area, like tall grass, trees, etc. They also removed the "opposite margin" relief option.

Part of me was hoping they'd just go all the way with this, and eliminate yellow, but that wouldn't work for areas of the course where your ball carries the hazard but then rolls back in, and they want you to negotiate the hazard. So, okay.

My only fear is that courses are going to have be re-rated, as we used to take dense woods, tall rough, etc. as OB/Extreme Rough (stroke and distance), and now if marked as a red penalty area, that's less of a penalty, and 2) that courses will just make too many things penalty areas when they should be regular general areas. Maybe their budget for red stakes and paint will help curb that? :-)

And almost nobody ever used the opposite margin thing anyway. And it's still available via a local rule.


Touching Loose Impediments/Ground in Penalty Areahttp://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rules-modernization/major-changes/touching-or-moving-loose-impediments-or-ground.html - No penalty. There's still a penalty if your ball moves, so you can't just do whatever you like. You also can't improve your lie, etc.

Good. Fine.


Touching Loose Impediments/Sand in Bunkerhttp://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rules-modernization/major-changes/moving-or-touching-loose-impediments-or-sand-in-a-bunker.html - You can move loose impediments and touch the sand a bit more often, but you still can't ground your club in a bunker, touch the sand with your backswing, or when making practice swings. You can't touch the sand to test the condition, either.

Good. Always felt weird that your ball could be under a leaf or a stick in the bunker, and that you were extra penalized for that. This also eliminates the rules and decisions about a half-eaten pear, a dead snake vs. a live snake, etc.


Unplayable in a Bunkerhttp://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rules-modernization/major-changes/unplayable-ball-in-a-bunker.html - An extra option of dropping outside the bunker for two strokes is now available.

Okay. Though some will say this is something everyone who is a horrible bunker player should consider almost all the time… if you're THAT bad out of bunkers, you should practice a little, and you're probably not competing for much. So this will help some kids, some women, some beginning men… or whatever, as well as help people who had to take an unplayable from the back edge of the bunker and had nowhere else to go. Two penalty strokes is severe, too.


8 minutes ago, mdl said:

I used to live in LA, where a lot of scrub/brush was marked as a penalty area

That wasn't legit at the time (or even now). It will be in 2019.

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1 hour ago, iacas said:

Yes.

If the Local Rule is in place. And not "potentially." Always.

Then again, what are they going to do if you lose a ball and haven't reached the fairway? Do you just get to go as far across the hole as you'd like?

Since you can’t follow the rule, perhaps this rule isn’t allowed if you haven’t reached the fairway?  As a practical matter I think most players who haven’t reached the fairway would choose to hit another driver anyway.

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2 minutes ago, allenc said:

Since you can’t follow the rule, perhaps this rule isn’t allowed if you haven’t reached the fairway?  As a practical matter I think most players who haven’t reached the fairway would choose to hit another driver anyway.

I don't know. It's a good question. What if you just argued that you could go along that direction until you got to A fairway, any fairway, even if it's two holes away? So long as you're still 174 yards (example #) away from the flag or more…?

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1 hour ago, iacas said:

It's not supposed to be used for serious competitions.

An if the guy hit it OB or lost it, he's still hitting 4. Yes, it does basically just let him pretend he hit his next tee shot in the fairway, instead of having to face the same tee shot he just hit OB again, but… it's not supposed to be used for serious competitions. Leagues, etc. should adopt the local rule.

I like it because it is still one stroke more than a lateral hazard, so you still will want to be more careful on tee shots,

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Equipment

Use of Damaged Clubs - http://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rules-modernization/major-changes/use-of-clubs-damaged-during-round.html and http://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rules-modernization/major-changes/adding-clubs-to-replace-a-club-damaged-during-round.html - You can keep using or repair a club damaged for any reason. You cannot replace a club unless damaged by outside forces. Like a gorilla comes and stomps on your putter. :-)

Okay. Simple enough. I can't see someone intentionally "damaging" a club to make it perform differently. Changing the weights or the hosel setting on your driver isn't "damaging" the club, so no overlap or conflict there.


Distance Measuring Deviceshttp://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rules-modernization/major-changes/use-of-distance-measuring-devices.html - Now permitted, and the Local Rule can prohibit, if needed.

Good. It'll be interesting to see what the major tours do with this one, though. I hope they allow it. It should be faster than pacing off to the sprinkler heads and then doing math.


Playing a Ball

Caddie Helping Players Line Up, Standing Behind - http://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rules-modernization/major-changes/caddie-standing-behind-a-player-to-help-line-player-up.html - Caddies can't stand on an extension of the line of play once the player begins taking their stance.

Suck it, LPGA Tour. Thank goodness. I've been proposing this for years (since well before even this 2015 topic).


Caddie Lifting Ball on Putting Greenhttp://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rules-modernization/major-changes/caddie-lifting-ball-on-the-putting-green.html - Caddies can freely mark and pick up their player's ball on the putting green. Right now, they require explicit permission each time. They can only replace the ball if they are the one who marked and picked it up.

Okay. Good.


Ball Accidentally Struck More than Oncehttp://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rules-modernization/major-changes/ball-accidentally-struck-more-than-once.html - No penalty. Play it as it lies.

Good. Nobody does this on purpose, and the ball usually ends up in a worse spot anyway. The penalty felt really severe. Piling on. Note, of course, that this does not mean you can hit a putt, then run forward and hit it again to direct it into the hole. That would be a ball in motion intentionally deflected.

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15 minutes ago, iacas said:

 

That wasn't legit at the time (or even now). It will be in 2019.

Well, I think usually they were marked as "environmentally sensitive", but you were often told to treat it as a hazard, and they were marked as such, not OB, though if memory serves I've seen both.  Not sure if the "environmentally sensitive" label changed whether or not it was legit.

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5 minutes ago, iacas said:

I don't know. It's a good question. What if you just argued that you could go along that direction until you got to A fairway, any fairway, even if it's two holes away? So long as you're still 174 yards (example #) away from the flag or more…?

You got me to look at the text more closely...

Quote

b. Fairway Reference Point: The point of fairway of the hole being played that is nearest to the ball reference point, but is not nearer the hole than the ball reference point.

“the hole being played”

So that rules out using another fairway.  Is the teeing ground considered fairway?  Perhaps you could use that for the fairway reference point.  You still may have a decent place to hit from nearer to where you lost the ball on the line connecting the two.

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2 minutes ago, mdl said:

Well, I think usually they were marked as "environmentally sensitive", but you were often told to treat it as a hazard, and they were marked as such, not OB, though if memory serves I've seen both.  Not sure if the "environmentally sensitive" label changed whether or not it was legit.

ESAs are different, then. I didn't take your description above as an ESA when you called it "bushes and scrub" or whatever you called it.

2 minutes ago, onthehunt526 said:

How much does the flagstick rule, grind your gears? Or is it just, meh?

:mad: :pound:

Does that answer your question? I feel like they fundamentally changed the game, and may have achieved the opposite of their intent, and that they did so without conducting basic research, despite having a few million dollars and plenty of scientists on hand to do so.

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1 minute ago, onthehunt526 said:

Erik, 

How much does the flagstick rule, grind your gears? Or is it just, meh?

Well you didn't ask me, but that's the worst one of the ones I've looked through, IMO.  Basically it makes downhill or severely sloping short putts slightly easier with no obvious benefit.  I agree with Erik that the pace of play argument is bogus.  I mean, I've left flagsticks in when I'm trying to charge through 9 holes during nap time on an open course where I can honestly save time by jogging up to my ball, fixing any mark, and banging the ball towards the hole.  But for anyone not playing speed golf on a wide open course, I don't see it.

2 minutes ago, iacas said:

ESAs are different, then. I didn't take your description above as an ESA when you called it "bushes and scrub" or whatever you called it.

Yeah.  There were definitely some courses that seemed like they had legit ESAs.  But I definitely played at some courses that basically wished they had the new penalty area option available to make some generic SoCal scrub into a penalty area, but didn't, so just called the area they wanted to make a hazard an ESA.

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When to Play During a Round

Pace of Playhttp://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rules-modernization/major-changes/encouraging-prompt-pace-of-play.html - Players are encouraged to play ready golf. Players are encouraged to play within 40 seconds. Committees are told they should adopt a pace of play policy instead of saying they may.

Good, but I wish they had gone farther with this one. The 40 second thing is only a "recommendation." I understand why - they wouldn't want someone facing a super tricky shot on the last hole of a big tournament to get a penalty for taking 44 seconds - but I don't know that just saying "we recommend" is going to do a whole lot.

Still, though, short of a comprehensive thing where each player is given a number of 40-second extensions, or a system of warnings, or something to use during a round, they couldn't really say much more beyond "recommend."

I hope - but highly highly doubt - that the PGA Tour would use this as cover to strongly beef up their pace of play policies. They won't.


Max Score Form of Stroke Playhttp://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rules-modernization/major-changes/maximum-score--form-of-stroke-play.html - The Committee can cap your score at "10" or "2 times par" or "net triple" or whatever if they want.

Good. US Kids Golf has used this rule since @NatalieB played in it, and it helps a lot on some occasions. It won't be used in higher level competitions, but could greatly help speed up some forms of play with some kinds of competitors, particularly if there's a very tough hole.

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Player Behavior

Expected Standards of Player Behavior - http://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rules-modernization/major-changes/expected-standards-of-player-conduct.htmlhttp://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rules-modernization/major-changes/code-of-player-conduct.html - The committee can DQ a player for playing contrary to the spirit of the game, and the words "breach of etiquette" are now mostly replaced with "misconduct". Rule 1.2b will give committees the authority to define their own code of conduct.

Meh. I can see high school committees DQing or penalizing players for cursing, for example. But this won't have much of an effect, otherwise. Better to have than to not have, but not by a lot. It's tough to actually write out what is and isn't "misconduct" or "integrity." Particularly in a competition.


Elimination of Required Announcement to Lift - http://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rules-modernization/major-changes/elimination-of-the-requirement-to-announce-the-players-intent.html - A player doesn't have to announce his intent to mark and lift the ball, but if they do so without a good reason they can still be penalized.

I'm not a huge fan of this one, simply because a player can often benefit from lifting his ball by not putting it back exactly as it was. If his "mark" is a single dot on one side of the ball, he can reasonably say he has a "good reason" to want to mark and lift it whenever his ball is in the rough, and even at times when it's in the fairway, as a single small dot could often be obscured by the grass. If that player still had to announce his intent, his playing partners would be alerted to how often he was trying to do this, and encourage either better markings or supervise his replacement.

Yeah, that goes against the USGA/R&A trying to assume players won't intentionally cheat, but it's a simple matter of fact that players will not always be able to re-create the lie.


Reasonable Judgment in Estimating/Measuring - http://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rules-modernization/major-changes/reasonable-judgment-in-estimating-and-measuring.html - Player estimates, if done in good faith and with a reasonable level of accuracy, will be taken as good, even if later shown to be off by a camera or replay or whatever. This includes estimating knee height, finding the line on which you can drop your ball, etc.

Fine. This isn't really much of a change, and Lexi Thompson would still have been penalized as virtually nobody thought she did a reasonable job of replacing the ball. So would Tiger Woods at the Masters (he may have dropped within the defined "area," though, so another rule may have saved him).

But yeah, this is just to help people who replace their ball or drop by a hazard or whatever, and do their actual best, and are later shown to be off. That's fine.

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So that new stroke and distance is kinda legitimizing the rules most leagurs/groups of friends use for lost balls? (Albeit a lot those groups  only added the 1 stroke penalty so shooting 3 instead of 4)

For me socially this works out. People got annoyed with me all the time for hitting provisionals when I thought my tee shot was OB. If I got too much pressure, I woould just drop and be lying 4.

What still sucked was people giving me a hard time for saying I was then lying 4 and not 3. I could see a lot of leagues/players still count it as lying 3 despite the new rule bring created, which slightly defeats the purpose.

Edited by cutchemist42

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17 minutes ago, cutchemist42 said:

So that new stroke and distance is kinda legitimizing the rules most leagurs/groups of friends use for lost balls? (Albeit a lot those groups  only added the 1 stroke penalty so shooting 3 instead of 4)

Yeah, it adds a stroke to what they would often do.

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Leaving the pin in -- this is no different than having the little flagsticks left in on the practice putting green. Leaving the pin in gives you a better target to aim at, and if the ball arrives at the hole with a gentle pace, it won't bounce away when it hits the pin.

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