Proposed New Rules of Golf for 2019


The R&A and the USGA have unveiled a preview of the proposed new Rules of Golf, as part of a joint initiative to modernise the Rules and make them easier to understand and apply. This begins a six-month feedback and evaluation period during which all golfers worldwide can learn about the proposed changes and provide input before they are finalised in 2018 and take effect on 1 January 2019.

Highlights of the proposed Rule changes include:

  • Elimination or reduction of “ball moved” penalties
    There will be no penalty for accidentally moving a ball on the putting green or in searching for a ball.

  • Relaxed putting green rules
    There will be no penalty if a ball played from the putting green hits an unattended flagstick in the hole. Players may repair spike marks and other damage made by shoes, animal damage and other damage on the putting green and there is no penalty for merely touching the line of putt.

  • Relaxed rules for “penalty areas” (formerly water hazards)
    Expanded use of red penalty areas where lateral relief is allowed; and there will be no penalty for moving loose impediments or touching the ground or water in a penalty area.

  • Relaxed bunker rules
    There will be no penalty for moving loose impediments in a bunker or for generally touching the sand with a hand or club. An extra relief option is added for an unplayable ball in a bunker, allowing the ball to be played from outside the bunker with a two-stroke penalty.

  • Pace-of-play support
    Reduced time for searching for a lost ball (from five minutes to three); affirmative encouragement of “ready golf” in stroke play and other changes intended to help with pace of play.

  • Simplified way of taking relief
    A new procedure for taking relief by dropping a ball in and playing it from a specific relief area; relaxed procedures for dropping a ball, allowing the ball to be dropped from just above the ground.


The R&A has created a dedicated Rules of Golf Modernisation website that contains detailed descriptions, documents and videos about the proposed changes.

The R&A is seeking feedback from golfers about the proposed changes during the next 6 months. You are encouraged to visit the website and do a survey that takes about 10 minutes to complete. 

Click on the links below to see some of the documents available on the website: 

Overview of the Rules Modernisation Initiative

Overview of the Major Proposed Changes

Proposed changes to Definitions and Key Terms

Proposed changes to Penalties

Proposed changes to Procedures and Outcomes

Explanation  of the Major Proposed Changes

Frequently Asked Questions

You can see more documents on the  Rules of Golf Modernisation website including a draft copy of the Proposed New Rules of Golf for 2019, an abridged 'Players Edition' of the Rules, an illustrated Sample Rule (rule 16: Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions) and much more.


Topics not Addressed
Some areas of the games have not been addressed or are still under consideration and won't be updated in time for the 2019 edition of the Rules:

Topics not Addressed

Alternatives to stroke and Distance Relief


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