January 1, 2021

Golf rules changes 2019

Golf Rules Changes 2019

It has happened! The golf rules have been updated in order to improve the tempo, remove all petty "mistake" rules and made hazards less troublesome. We think that all-in-all these changes are positive for the game of golf but especially for beginners of golf.

The preconception of golf is that all the rules are impossible to get a grip on, that there is a huge curve to climb over to start playing. So these changes reducing the barrier of entry of you will and will hopefully attract more players to the beautiful game!

Some of the most important changes:

Most important changes Golf Rules 2019

  • put with the flag in the hole
  • fix green spike marks
  • looking for the ball for a maximum of 3 minutes (previous 5)
  • remove loose objects everywhere (in hazards etc)
  • ground the club in hazards without penalty
  • no mandatory order on whos turn it is to hit
  • switch ball when you take a drop

... and no penalty if you

  • hit yourself or any of your gear (cart etc)
  • accidentally makes a double hit (when i.e. addressing the ball)
  • moving your ball when looking for it (which was a dumb rule to start with)
  • altering your ball on green accidentally

Check out our Review of the Best Golf Irons 2019 (Click here or on the image above)

Club Length!

Before you could use any club to measure your drop length, now it is the longest club that you have in your bag. We do not think this rule will change anything as people will continue to use the driver as before to get as far away as the hazard as possible.


Before, Yellow or Red meant water-hazard as a penalty area. From now on, local rules can enforce other areas as hazard areas with a penalty in the same manner as a water hazard. (Look out for this when playing a new course in the future!)

Distance measuring tools (R4.3a)

Now it is allowed, by the rules, to use gear aiding in distance measuring. A common theme is that local rules can forbid it, but we see this as highly unlikely. This is a rule that won't affect much.

“Ready Golf” (R6.4b)

In Stroke play, players are allowed and encouraged to play in the "wrong order". Previously, the rule of golf stated that it is the player furthest from the ball that should take their shot. The new rule that eliminates this sequence means higher tempo and more responsible golf (i.e. that if a player is standing in the way, it can take a shot then move to the side)

Identifying the ball (R7.3)

From now on, you will no longer have to call your golf companion (or marker) to watch as you mark the position, lifts the ball and identifies it. This is a rule that a lot of people did not know existed and won't change much. We think that a lot of these new rules removes bureaucracy and increases trust while playing.

Ball Displaced while searching (R7.4)

Before, earlier players had to take a penalty if the ball was unintentionally moved while searching for it encouraging cautiousness and prolonging the search time. Now, a player can look the ball with either the club or the feet without running the risk of getting a penalty if the ball is dislocated.

This is a good rule but we doubt many golfers adhered to this rule before. But don't forget to replace the ball where it was found!

Double-tap (R10.1a)

We have all seen those shots, either a small chip and roll or a bunker shot, where you hit the ball first on the ground but then again in the air. Prior to 2019, this gave you a penalty. But not anymore! From now on, only one of the taps count and you are off the hook!

Lining up (R10.2b)

Previously, you could be aided by your caddie or companion when taking the stance for a put or even an iron shot. Now, a caddie is not allowed to stand directly behind the player when the player is taking its stance. Before taking the stance, you are allowed to receive help.

A player is also not allowed to use its club by placing it on the green to find the line.

The Ball hits a player or gear (R11.1a)

Previously, a player was awarded a penalty if it accidentally hit gear (i.e. the golf cart, a trolley or a golf bag) but this has now been removed. The rule adds, that no penalty will be awarded if the accidental hit was really that, accidental.

Good thing they clarified that for us!

Read our in-depth Article on "How golf is played" for more Golf knowledge!

Touching the Sand in the Bunker (R12.2b)

You are still not allowed to purposely touching the sand in the bunker to get a feel of its character. BUT, you are allowed to remove loose objects and leaning using your club to rest. You are even allowed to place your bag in the bunker now if you'd like.

But the best part of this is that you are allowed to move branches or other loose items from the bunker that may hinder your shot.

The Rule actually even states that you are allowed to hit the sand in the bunker in frustration after a bunker shot, but that you may still fall under disciplinary behavior.

When is a golf ball in or outside of the Bunker?

Fixing a Damage Green (R13.1c)

Many of us have seen the clips from that PGA championship when Rickie Fowler takes out his wedge and chips the ball over some spike marks on the green. This was because you were not allowed to alter anything in your putting line, not even damages.

Now you are allowed to fix plugged balls, all damages and damages to the cup as well. Great!

The Ball movest while on Green after it has been marked and put back (13.1d+R9.3)

Sometimes, after you have marked and cleaned your ball, your ball might move due to wind or the greens sloping. Previously, the ball was supose to be played at its new position but now you should move your ball back to its initial position without penalty.

Ball on Green is accidentally moved by a player or someone else. (R13.1d)

Ball on the green is inadvertently disturbed, moved by the player or someone else.

All situations where you inadvertently happen to upset the ball on Green,
for example during practice swings or when you remove the selection button,
is now without duty. Do not forget to reposition the ball
or the radio button.

If your Ball is on the wrong Green (R13.1f)

If your ball is located at the wrong green (sometimes greens are combined or close to each other) you should now move your ball according to the rules away from the green to one club length no closer to the hole. This is done even if the other green is affecting your stance and is without penalty.

Put with the flag in the hole (R13.2a)

Before, you either had to remove the flag or have someone watch it for you as you take your put. But now, you are allowed to put with the flag in the hole, no matter how close you are.

The idea behind this is if you are 2 players, you can save a lot of time putting long puts with the flag in the hole, instead of walking back and forth to pick it up. We have, on the other hand, seen pro's on the tour putting with the flag in even with shorter puts, depending on the line.

Ball Stuck at the Flagpole (R13.2c)

Previously, the ball was not counted as in the hole until you straighten the flagpole and let the ball fall into the hole. Now, it is counted as being holed-out as soon as any part of the ball is underneath the greens surface.

Dropping the ball (R14.3b)

One of the rules that will be utilized the most (and we have already seen this on TV). From now on, the ball should be dropped from knee-height, instead of a straight arm drop.

This, probably, to speed up the process of re-drops.

Loose objects of Nature (R15.1a)

You are now allowed to move all loose stones, branches, leaves etc even when you are in a hazard (penalty areas or bunkers). But be careful that the ball itself doesn't move, just as before.

Damages inflicted by Animals (R16.1a)

Previously, players were only allowed to drop without penalty if damages caused by shelter-digging animals. Now, you will have free drops from all damages caused by any animal.

Plugged Ball (R16.3a)

You are now allowed to drop any ball that is being plugged without a penalty, not only on the fairway. (This rule does not apply on i.e. the green as then you should put it back after you have cleaned it and fixed the damage from the plug or in the bunker/hazard.)

Touching the Ground while addressing the ball in a Hazard (R17.1b)

This is a welcoming rule as you are now allowed to place the club behind the ball touching the ground in a water hazard (as long as you do not move the ball). You are also allowed to test swing and remove loose objects.

Drop-alternatives in Hazards (R17.1d)

Previously, you could drop your ball on the other side of a side-water hazard (but no closer to the flag). This is no longer allowed unless local rules allow it.

Maximum time to be searching for a lost ball (R18.2a)

5 minutes have been cut down to 3 minutes. 3 minutes is with regards to the looking, and not including the walk up to where the ball was lost. This would mainly be that if you haven't found it in 3 minutes, you probably won't find it at all.

Provisional Ball (R18.3a)

This rule is a bit fuzzy, but it says that you can now go back and hit a provisional ball even though you have already started looking for your ball. Previously, you were not allowed to hit a provisional ball if you have already started looking. But since the 3-minute rule still applies, we find it rare that you will have time to look for a ball, go back and hit a provisional ball and then to continue the search.

But who knows!

Unplayable Ball in the Bunker (R19.3b)

Previously, a player had 3 alternatives for dropping - all of them with one penalty - if the player declared its ball unplayable in the bunker. Now a player is allowed to drop outside the bunker in the line of the flag for 2 penalties.

A pretty good rule if you are in a tricky situation.

Local Rules

Please observe that the changes in the rules allow for more variations as to the rules by the local club.

This changes can contain:

  • Penalty areas that are not a water hazard i.e. a piece of forest or sensitive terrain.
  • Dropping the ball for 2 penalty's for out of bounds (instead of walking all the way back to play another)
  • Not allowing special gear, such as distance control and more.
  • and so on...

Read more on the new golf rules at the PGA website


About the author 

Emma Johnson

I have been playing golf for over 20 years and I am crazy about all thing Golf equipment! I'm currently playing TaylorMade M6 Irons and TaylorMade M4 Driver. I just started playing with the Bridgestone RXS Tour golf balls. I currently play on HCP 6 and I'm mostly playing for fun at the moment, after playing some tournaments on the Amateur Tour and in local championships. I have worked part-time with TaylorMade and I really love their products. Send me an e-mail at emma@pineclubgolf.com or leave a comment down below if you want to get in contact with me!

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