USGA, R&A Publish New 2019 Rules

The most significant overhaul of the Rules of Golf in generations is set to be put into effect on January 1, 2019, but on Wednesday, the USGA and R&A announced the finalized version of the new rules have been published and are available for public consumption.

The rules changes, which numbered more than 30, were announced last March and, following a revision period in which the USGA received more than 30,000 pieces of feedback, the modernized Rules of Golf are ready to be put into place.

“From the project’s inception, our one goal was to make the rules easier to understand and apply for all golfers,” Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior managing director of governance, said. “It sets a new standard in the way we write and interpret the rules and is central to our efforts to ensure a healthy future for golf. We look forward to continuing that process in the years to come.”

Notable rules changes include new procedures for dropping a ball when taking relief, the elimination or reduction of several penalties, relaxed putting green and bunker rules, and rules that encourage improved pace of play.

The USGA and R&A also released a “Player’s Edition” of the rulebook that will water down some of the complex language that muddies the waters around the rules. It includes helpful diagrams and illustrations. Golfers can order a copy of the Player’s Edition online at or access it via

While the rules changes will impact the amateur player on a day-to-day basis, there are also big changes coming to the rules that will be enforced on the professional tours around the world. Those changes include players being allowed to repair any kind of damage to the putting surface (including spike marks), penalty drops can now be taken from knee-height, caddies can no longer line up players, the flag no longer needs to be removed from the cup while putting from the green and there is no longer a penalty for a double hit. 

The USGA has put together a “Major Changes” web page for golfers to get a better understanding of what’s going to be different in 2019.

One of the most notable for amateur golfers will be the local rule that can be enacted instead of stroke and distance. 

“A new Local Rule will provide an alternative to stroke-and-distance relief for a ball that is lost outside a penalty area or out of bounds.”