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The New Standard in Golf

Together, the R&A and the USGA write and interpret the rules of golf for golfers throughout the world. For those of you who aren’t aware, for the last five years or so, both organizations have been working together on a “Rules Modernization” initiative. Essentially, it is a comprehensive review of the rules of golf so that they are easier to understand. These new rules will be applied to golfers at all levels—amateur to professional.

Although these changes wont take place until 2019, the new rules - which were announced n March - are the most momentous changes made in over 30 years. We’ve taken some of the most significant changes from a few online sources and listed them for you. Enjoy!


If a player accidentally moves his/her ball during search

Current rule: 1 stroke penalty

Proposed rule: no penalty

Player accidentally moves his/her ball or ball-marker to move

Current rule: 1 stroke penalty

Proposed rule: no penalty

The decision of whether the player caused his/her ball to move

Current rule: decide by using evidence or determining if it was likely or not to happen

Proposed rule: player will be found to be the cause ONLY when it is know or at least 95% certain

Replacing ball lying off the putting green when it moves

Current rule: drop the ball as nearby to the estimated spot as possible

Proposed rule: replace the ball on its estimated spot – if that spot was on or against natural objects, replace the ball on that spot on or against those objects


If the moving ball hits the player/caddie/flagstick attendee…

Current rule: 1 stroke penalty (or 2 stroke if the deflection relates to the flagstick or attendant)

Proposed rule: no penalty


Dropping the ball

Current rule: sometimes there will be a specified area, sometimes it is on/near to the spot or line

Proposed rule: must be dropped in relief area

Dropped ball come to rest

Current rule: ball must be re-dropped (if it rolls to any of the 9 areas via rule 20-2c), such as rolling more than 2 club lengths from where the dropped ball struck the ground

Proposed rule: ball must come to rest in the relief area where it was dropped, or else the ball must be re-dropped

Measuring the size of relief area where a ball is to be dropped

Current rule: measure with 1 or 2 club length

Proposed rule: relief area is measured by a fixed distance of 20 or 80 inches from the reference line

Tiger dropping the ball... Literally, not figuratively.

How to drop a ball

Current rule: stand erect, hold the ball at shoulder height and arms length

Proposed rule: player can drop the ball however they please, as long as the ball is above the ground and not touching any growing thing or natural/artificial object. The ball must be let go so that it falls through the air before coming to rest. It is recommended to drop it at least one inch above the ground.

Time allowed for a ball search

Current rule: a ball is lost if not found in 5 minutes

Proposed rule: a ball is lost if not found in 3 minutes

Substituting ball when taking relief

Current rule: player must use original ball when taking free relief. It is only allowed when taking penalty relief

Proposed rule: player must always substitute ball when taking relief

Taking relief for a ball embedded in its own pitch-mark

Current rule: relief is allowed only in areas cute to fairway height or less, unless there is a local rule that has been adopted allowing relief anywhere

Proposed rule: a player must take relief without penalty for an embedded ball anywhere in the “general area”, unless there is a local rule adopted restricting relief only to areas cut to fairway height or less


Replacing a ball on the green when it moves from its spot after it already had been lifted and replaced

Current rule: the ball is replaced only if a player/outside agency cause it to move

Proposed rule: ball must always be replaced on its original spot – even it is was moved through natural occurrence

Repairing damage on the putting green

Current rule: player may only repair ball marks on the putting green

Proposed rule: player must repair almost any damage on the putting green.

Visit USGA for all of the new rules:​

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