Most of us have heard there have been changes to the rules of golf by the USGA.  In total there are close to 30 rules changes however some are more crucial for you to know than others.  In this article we will cover nine of those changes and how they affect your leagues and recreation play.

Rule 17 no states, There are no longer any special restrictions when a ball is in a “penalty area” (the expanded designation for the area that includes what were previously called water hazards). A player is allowed to touch or move loose impediments and touch the ground with hand or club (such as grounding the club right behind the ball) for any reason, subject only to the prohibition on improving conditions for the stroke (see Rule 8.1a).

Under Rules 12.2a and 12.2b, the player is allowed to touch or move loose impediments in a bunker and is generally allowed to touch the sand with a hand or club; but a limited prohibition continues so that the player must not: Deliberately touch the sand in a bunker with a hand, club, or rake or other object to test the conditions of the sand to learn information for the stroke, or touch the sand in a bunker with a club in making a practice swing, in grounding the club right in front of or behind the ball, or in making the back swing for a stroke.

Under Rule 13.2a there is no longer a penalty if a ball played from the putting green hits a flagstick left in the hole.  Players are not required to putt with the flagstick in the hole; rather, they continue to have the choice to have it removed (which includes having someone attend the flagstick and remove it after the ball is played).

Players continue to drop a ball when taking relief, but the dropping procedure is changed in several ways as detailed in Rule 14.3.  How a ball may be dropped is simplified, the only requirement is that the ball be let go from knee height so that it falls through the air and does not touch any part of the player’s body or equipment before it hits the ground.

Under Rule 18.2, the time for a ball search (before the ball becomes lost) has been reduced from 5 minutes to 3 minutes.

Under Rule 13.1d, there is no longer a penalty if a player (or opponent) accidentally causes the player’s ball to move on the putting green.  Replace it and play it from its original position.

Under Rule 7.4 if a player accidentally moves his or her ball while searching for it: The player gets no penalty for causing it to move, and the ball is always replaced.  If the exact spot is not known, the player will replace the ball on the estimated original spot.  Including on, under or against any attached natural or man-made objects which the ball had been at rest under or against.

Rule 13.1c(2) allows repair of almost any damage on the green;  Damage on the putting green is defined to include all types of damage such as ball-marks, shoe damage, indentions from a club or flagstick, animal damage, etc.  Exceptions are aeration holes, natural surface imperfections or natural wear of the hole.

In stroke play, a player’s score for each hole is capped at a maximum set by the committee, which may be fixed, such as 6, 8, 10, etc.  Or related to par such as 2x par, triple bogey, or related to a players handicap such as net double bogey.  A player who does not complete a hole, (often referred to informally as “picking up” is NOT disqualified, but simply gets the maximum score for the hole.


There are a lot more rules changes than this.  For a detailed list including video demonstrations you can look at the USGA website, or clicking this link; USGA RULES CHANGES.

Please stay up to date on these changes so it does not impact your season.  We will also be uploading a condensed video on YouTube for this post as well.