March 01, 2017

FSGA Voice on Rules Modernization

Today, the R&A and the USGA released the most sweeping proposed changes to the Rules of Golf since 1984. The proposed changes would reduce the number of Rules from the current number of 34 to 24 and take effect on January 1, 2019.

Taking the stage bright and early Wednesday morning, March 1, 2017, USGA Executive Director & CEO Mike Davis appeared on Golf Channel's "Morning Drive" along side Thomas Pagel, Senior Director of Rules & Amateur Status for the USGA to announce, along with the R&A, what has been the most drastic and progressive change to the Rules of Golf in nearly 35 years. The duo shared the show with the R&A's Martin Slumbers and David Rickman as the platform went back and forth between Golf Channel's Orlando studios and the Old Course at St Andrews as the four gentlemen all discussed the different changes with the Golf Channel hosts.

“We are excited and encouraged by the potential this work brings, both through the proposed new Rules and the opportunities to use technology to deliver them,” said Pagel. “We look forward to an ongoing conversation with golfers during the feedback period in the months ahead.”

“I applaud the R&A and the USGA for trying to bring the Rules of Golf up to date,” said Jack Pultorak, Director of Rules and Competitions for the Florida State Golf Association. “Any time we can do anything with the Rules of Golf that makes it easier and simpler to read, understand and apply, is a win win situation for everyone.”

"I believe these changes are fantastic, and a giant step in the right direction," said Jim Demick, Executive Director of the Florida State Golf Association. "By all measures, the Rules have become far too complicated for all golfers, and this simplification that is proposed will be a welcome change."

What the 2019 Rule Book May Look Like & Include

As mentioned by Pultorak, the intent of simplifying and modernizing the Rules of Golf, will see them first look to include plainer text, as well as enhanced use of illustration in the Rule Book from what we know now. The example below was shared on the USGA Rules Home about what the new Rules may look like in the book. Another thing that was mentioned by the USGA Staff was the desire to embrace technology with the proposed Rules, having the Rules of Golf being very user friendly online, including enhanced search features, and even videos of how to handle a situation.

The USGA stated “The proposed 24 new Rules, reduced from the current 34, have been written in a user-friendly style with shorter sentences, commonly used phrases, bullet-ed lists and explanatory headings. The initiative also focuses on assessing the overall consistency, simplicity and fairness of the Rules of Play. The proposed rules changes also took the issue of Pace of Play into account in many areas and hope some changes can help lead to Pace of Play improvements long term.

“If you are a traditionalist, as I am, it will be difficult to adapt to the changes. However, that’s what they said in 1984 as well,” added Pultorak.

5 Key Changes

  • How to Drop a Ball - You will be able to drop a ball from any distance above the ground, provided it doesn't touch anything an falls through the air when dropped.
  • Time for Ball Search - Three minutes will be the maximum allotted time to search for a ball, rather than the current five minutes.
  • Repairing Spike Marks - It will be OK to repair spike marks and any other damage done by shoes, damage from a club and almost all other damage on the putting green.
  • Leaving The Flagstick in the Hole - If you make a stroke from the putting green and your ball hits the flagstick in the hole, there will be no penalty.
  • Relaxed Rules in Penalty Areas - You are allowed to ground your club and move loose impediments in a penalty area (an expanded concept of what we call water hazards today).


The USGA will hold a six month feedback period through August 31, 2017 before preparing to finalize the new code. There will be a review and approval period through winter 2018 before announcing the final form of the new Rules in the spring of 2018. The new Rules will take effect January 1, 2019.

USGA Links


Through August 31, 2017, the USGA and R&A are asking for golfers of all levels to submit there feedback. Please click here to visit the Feedback Landing Page on the USGA's website to submit any thoughts or input you may have.

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