The first golf rules, pardon the pun, came into play around 1744. The game is much older than the official rules and until 1744 operated under whatever the local rules were where you played golf. Even after the rules were written down, it was hard to get golfers to adhere to a set of rules if they differed from the rules as they knew them.
Like the rules of golf, the way we play golf is evolving as well. Improvements in club technology and golf balls have changed the game for the better. Some of the changes we take for granted, like a long drive, simply wasn’t possible with the clubs and balls from 50 years ago. Understanding the rules can save costly strokes during tournaments.
Five New Or Modified Golf Rules You Need To Understand
The sport continues to evolve which is apparent with these new regulations.
USGA golf rule 14.3 is one of the most important rules to get an update in a long time. Instead of dropping the ball from shoulder height, the new rule requires that you drop the ball from knee height when taking relief from things like a water hazard. The drop still hangs on to some of the randomness, but it reduces the chance your ball will roll back into something like a water hazard.
This helps golfers out a lot. We’ve all dropped for relief only to have the ball roll or bounce back into a hazard or somehow cause us to make another drop. Dropping from around knee height almost lets you place the ball without actually putting it in the perfect spot. You still have to make your next shot count, but your chances of getting a good drop are much better now.
Rule 5.6 is something we can all get behind since it governs part of the way you play a round of golf. Slow players can back up the entire golf course in a very short amount of time. Sometimes novice golfers might play slower than we’d like, but we give them some leeway because we were all beginners at some point.
Rule 5.6 limits players to around 40 seconds per stroke. The rule implies that you need to make your shot as soon as you can with distractions or possible interruptions. The 40-second time in the rule is more of a guideline than a hard rule since the rule also asks that you make the shot without waiting too long. So, take your shot quickly and before the 40-second timer winds down.
New rule 19.3b stops you from getting disqualified before of a bad lie. If your ball is unplayable, you can take relief away from the bunker in some situations. Bunkers can get frustrating, and even professional players have problems with them at times. Sometimes we just end up in a bad spot, and relief is the most logical option.
However, taking relief outside the bunker will cost you two strokes, but you get to finish the hole instead of being disqualified for being unable to continue the playing. Many of the USGA rule changes and additions as of this writing focus on relief and making it more logical and golfer friendly. Like us, we’re sure this is exciting for you as well.
The changes and additions to the rules under section four, specifically rule 4.3, allow players to use devices to measure distances. Previously. Players could not use GPS or other tools to help them determine the distance to anything on the golf course. The new changes don’t specify any devices, but you can use methods under this rule to help speed up your game without giving you an unfair advantage.
Everyone has a smartphone today, so finding an app or using the one provided by the golf course is no longer considered an advantage since everyone has access to them. These devices can speed up your game, which seems to be the focus of many of the rule changes and additions. Let’s be honest, knowing we need to hit the ball 117.3 yards to drop it next to the cup won’t help our game that much.
Players that need more than the maximum number of strokes to complete a hole won’t get disqualified any longer for that hole. Instead of putting the dreaded “X” on your scorecard, you can simply put down the maximum for that hole. Some local clubs and courses already use this style of scoring, but the rules of golf only adopted it recently.
Like the rule about devices and apps that help you measure distances, some local courses and clubs may not allow you to use this rule. Check with them before you assume omitting the “X” is acceptable. This rule won’t fix your game or help you make par, but it will give you the option to score the hole based on the strokes you made or the maximum. This is handy if you insist on finishing every hole.
Seven Accepted Behaviors That May Not Make The Rule Book
Life on the course has its own set of unspoken regs that don’t always make the cut.
The rules of golf might seem too strict and many players, both novices and pros, often complain about mistakes coming with harsh one or two-stroke penalties. For instance, if you accidentally move your ball while searching for it in tall grass, the officials might hit you with a penalty. Now, if you accidentally move your ball or ball marker, you won’t get penalized unless locals rules insist on it.
Local rules for non-competition play may trump official rules or guidelines. For instance, if you hit a ball into the woods or out of bounds, you can drop the ball into the edge of the fairway as long as you don’t move it closer to the cup. This gives players some freedom without needing an official since the drop zone is anywhere that you agree the ball might have landed or gone out of bounds.
Common sense is making considerable strides in the game of golf and the rules, or accepted rules players can follow. In another attempt to speed up your game, hitting the flag on a long putt won’t cost you a stroke. You can void walking across long greens to move the flag and just putt. If you hit the flag, it may cost you par since the ball gets deflected, but at least you won’t lose a stroke.
Unless local rules say otherwise, accidentally hitting the ball twice when putting is no longer a penalty-inducing error. Again, common sense is kicking in here since hitting the ball twice is almost always an accident. Accidentally hitting the ball twice with any stroke probably hurts the shot more than it helps, so the penalty for it was just silly anyway.
You can play with a damaged club without pretending you didn’t know about the problems. Previously, a damaged club was off limits, and you couldn’t replace the club during play. Now, you can’t replace the club, but you can play with it unless the damage seems severe and might make using the club dangerous to you or other golfers.
You can remove loose crud around your ball in bunkers or after a drop. You can’t touch the sand or push the grass down around your ball to improve the shot but getting the loose debris out of the way is no longer a rules breach. Make sure an official or your golfing partners watch you do it so that you don’t get accused of cheating later.
It is technically a rule change, but the wording is sketchy. To help speed up the game a little more, the time you get to search for a lost ball is only three minutes. Local rules may change this at your club or course, so check with them. If we’re honest, finding a lost ball after one minute of searching is probably a lost cause anyway.
Five Golfs Hacks And Tips To Improve Your Game
We’d be remiss if we didn’t offer some advice.
Look back at your golf game. You can find plenty of ways to track your golf game from phone apps to a simple notepad. The goal is monitoring everything you do, including:
- Practice time driving and putting
- Scores on the same courses over time
- Lost balls or water balls
- Total time per hole and overall time on the course
This list could grow to include several things like capturing videos of your swing to tracking how you played using various equipment and balls. Your goal is compiling data to analyze so that you can find problems with your golf game. Keeping records may show improvements or underline areas that need work, which is the ultimate purpose of this tip.
Use your local golf pro and trainers. One thing all golfers have in common is the belief that hitting more golf balls is the secret to improving your game. That type of thinking can hurt or help your game. Practice is critical to improving your success at any game, but you can’t fix a bad golf swing or a weak stance by hitting balls all the time.
A professional coach will immediately see your problems and have solutions for them. Some golf pros might let you send them a video of your swing and offer some advice on how to fix it without requiring you to meet them for a session. Every golfer from the pro with the most tour wins to the weekend golfer can use some help from an objective coach.
Learn how to choose the right club for the job at hand. If you track your results using different clubs on the driving range, you already know how far you hit the ball with most of your clubs. What if the wind is blowing from the cup to the green? What if you end up playing on a wet course? What if you end up in a bunker 15 yards from the cup?
Picking the right club is crucial to making the shot count. The wind can steal distance from you or push your ball off course if you don’t use the right club and aim your ball correctly. A wet or damp fairway may add weight to your ball and cause it to behave abnormally once the ball lands. A short 15-yard shot from a sand bunker is a challenge for most golfers, but the wrong club makes it impossible.
Work on your stance. It often amazes golfers, even those with years of playing time behind them, how critical your stance is to your game. The stance you use for each shot determines the success of that shot. You can buy the best gear and practice for hours each day, but a bad or weak golf stance will always cripple your game.
For instance, playing the ball a little forward in your stance can dramatically affect how the clubface contacts the ball and ultimately, how the ball reacts. Balance and how you set your toes before you swing determines how fluid your stroke is and if that stroke is repeatable. Consistency is crucial to a good golf swing and stance.
Learn how to grip the club properly. How you grip the club determines several things about what happens after you hit the ball. The wrong grip can create a slice or a hook in your swing. Undersized or oversized grips also affect how you strike the ball. Visit a pro shop to find out what size grips you need, and they can help you understand your grip as well.
Don’t assume the grips that came on your clubs match your hands. If you have trouble with the club rotating in your hands during your swing or if it feels like it’s slipping out of them, you need to upgrade or replace your grips. Few things are more terrifying than losing your grip on the club while trying to hit the ball over a water hazard on a par three hole.
It may seem elementary, but practice is critical. Just hitting balls at the driving range is not practice. If your swing or stance is wrong, no amount of ball striking can help you. You need to get a trainer or better golfer to help you figure out why your swing is off. If your swing and stance are mostly correct and you have trouble with consistency, practice is the solution.
Talk to your local golf pro and find some drills online to help you with setting up and swinging. Avoid buying the gimmicky tools and swing aids you see online and in golf magazines. You can perform a lot of drills using your golf clubs as alignment sticks. Alignment sticks and videos made by professional golfers are probably the best investments you can make to help your golf game.
Some Final Notes
Golf is one of the few games that require you to study the rules and monitor changes in them. A simple change in a gold rule like allowing distance measuring devices can be a boon to your game. When your game is off, go back to the fundamentals and make sure your approach, setup, and swing haven’t changed. Golf is like an antique car; you always have something to work on or repair.