New USGA golf rules created to help players score better

The number of changes in the rules of golf for 2019 is the highest in the past 60 years. There are 24 in all, and they are easier to understand.

I have selected some of the rules that I think will speed up play and help you score better if you know how to use them.

  • There is no penalty if you accidentally move your ball during a search or on the green. Just put the ball back and you are ready to go.
  • In amateur events, you can use distance-measuring devices unless the committee states that they are not allowed. This helps speed up play.
  • Pace of play. The USGA suggests a stroke be made in less than 40 seconds. They also encourage "ready" golf if it is safe. This means you can play out of turn if you are not in danger of getting hit by the slower player.
  • Maximum score for stroke play. This is up to your committee. You are encouraged to stop playing a hole when you have reached a certain score. It can be related to the player's handicap. For example, net double bogey.
  • Hitting a flagstick that is in the hole while putting is no longer a penalty. This will speed up play and will help you on downhill putts.
  • No penalty for removing loose impediments in a bunker or penalty area. However, you cannot take practice swings in the bunker.
  • You can now ground your club and take practice swings in penalty areas, once known as water hazards.
  • The procedure for dropping a ball has changed. Instead of dropping the ball at shoulder level, you will now get to drop the ball at knee level. This will speed up play and allow for better lies.
  • To improve pace of play, golfers now have only three minutes to find a missing ball.

For a complete list of the new rules, visit usga.org/rules.

Dr. Jean Harris is an LPGA Master Professional and teaches at local courses.jean.golfdoctor.harris@gmail.com; golfdoctorjean.com


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