Full list: Proposed changes to the Rules of Golf

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 1, 2017, 12:10 pm

The USGA and R&A announced a series of proposed changes to the Rules of Golf, which would take effect in 2019. Here's a complete list of the topics addressed, including what the new rule would be and what the current rule is. Click here for video explanations of the proposed changes.

BALL AT REST: Topics Description of change
Player accidentally moves his or her ball during search

New rule: No penalty.

Current rule: 1-stroke penalty.
Player accidentally moves his or her ball or ball-marker on the putting green

New rule: No penalty.

Current rule: 1-stroke penalty (with exceptions).

Standard for deciding whether the player caused his or her ball to move

New rule: The player will be found to be the cause only when it is known or virtually certain (meaning at least 95%) to be the case.

Current rule: Weight of the evidence/more likely than not.
How to replace a ball lying off the putting green when it moves and its exact original spot isn’t known

New rule: Replace the ball on its estimated spot; if that spot was on, under or against attached natural objects, replace the ball on that spot on, under or against those objects.

Current rule: Drop the ball as near as possible to the estimated spot.
BALL IN MOTION: Topic Description of change
Player’s ball in motion accidentally hits the player, his or her caddie, the person attending the flagstick or the attended or removed flagstick 

New rule: No penalty.

Current rule: 1-stroke penalty (expect it is a 2-stroke penalty when the accidental deflection relates to the flagstick or the attendant).

TAKING RELIEF: Topics Description of change
Where a ball must be dropped 

New rule:  Drop in a defined relief area.

Current rule: Sometimes the drop is in a specified area, sometimes it is on or as near as possible to a spot or a line.

Where a dropped ball must come to rest

New rule: The ball must come to rest in the relief area where it was dropped, or else the ball must be re-dropped.

Current rule: The ball must be re-dropped if it rolls to any of the nine specified areas (Rule 20-2c), such as rolling more than 2 club-lengths from where the dropped ball struck the ground.

Measuring the size of the relief area where a ball must be dropped and played

New rule: The relief area is measured by a fixed distance of 20 inches or 80 inches from the reference point or the reference line; this can readily be measured by using markings on the shaft of a club.

Current rule: Measured by using 1 or 2 club-lengths (with any length club the player chooses).

How to drop a ball

New rule: The only requirement is for the player to hold the ball above the ground without it touching any growing thing or other natural or artificial object, and let it go so that it falls through the air before coming to rest; to avoid any doubt, it is recommended that the ball be dropped from at least one inch above the ground or any growing thing or object.

Current rule: Stand erect, hold the ball at shoulder height and arm’s length.

Time allowed for a ball search

New rule: A ball is lost if not found in three minutes.

Current rule: A ball is lost if not found in five minutes.

Substituting ball

New rule: A player may always substitute a ball when taking relief.

Current rule: The player must use the original ball when taking free relief (with exceptions); a substituted ball is allowed only when taking penalty relief.

Embedded ball

New rule: A player may take relief without penalty for an embedded ball anywhere (except in sand) in the “general area” (new term for “through the green”), unless a Local Rule has been adopted restricting relief only to areas cut to fairway height or less.

Current rule: Relief is allowed only in areas cut to fairway height or less, unless a Local Rule has been adopted allowing relief anywhere (except in sand) through the green.

AREAS OF THE COURSE: Topics Description of change
Replacing a ball on the putting green when it moves from its spot after it already had been lifted and replaced 

New rule: The ball must always be replaced on its original spot, even if it was blown by the wind or moved for no clear reason.

Current rule: The ball is replaced only if a player or outside agency caused it to move; otherwise, the ball is played from its new location.

Repairing damage on the putting green

New rule: A player may repair almost any damage (including spike marks and animal damage but not including natural imperfections) on the putting green.

Current rule: A player may only repair ball-marks or old hole plugs on the putting green.

Player touches the line of putt or touches the putting green in pointing out a target 

New rule: No penalty, so long as doing so does not improve the conditions for the player’s stroke.

Current rule: Loss of hole/2-stroke penalty (with exceptions).

Putting with an unattended flagstick left in the hole 

New rule: No penalty if a ball played from the putting green (or anywhere else) hits the unattended flagstick in hole.

Current rule: Loss of hole/2-stroke penalty if the ball is played from the putting green and hits the unattended flagstick in hole.

Areas the Committee may mark as a penalty area (where relief with 1-stroke penalty is allowed)

New rule: Red- and yellow-marked “penalty areas” may now cover areas of desert, jungle, lava rock, etc., in addition to areas of water.

Current rule: Relief is allowed only from “water hazards.”

Player moves loose impediments, touches the ground with hand or club or grounds the club in a penalty area when the ball is in the penalty area

New rule: No penalty.

Current rule: Loss of hole/2-stroke penalty (with exceptions).

Expanded use of red-marked penalty areas

New rule: Committees are given the discretion to mark all penalty areas as red so that lateral relief is always allowed (but they may still mark penalty areas as yellow where they consider it appropriate).

Current rule: All water hazards should be marked yellow, except where their location on the course makes it impossible or unreasonable to drop behind the hazard; only when this is the case may these water hazards be marked red as lateral water hazards.

Elimination of the opposite side relief option for red penalty areas

New rule: A player is no longer allowed to take relief from a red penalty area on the opposite side from where the ball last entered that penalty area, unless the Committee adopts a Local Rule allowing it.

Current rule: A player is always allowed to take relief from the opposite side of a red-marked lateral water hazard.

Player moves or touches a loose impediment in a bunker when the ball is in the bunker

New rule: No penalty.

Current rule: Loss of hole/2-stroke penalty (with exceptions).

Player touches sand in a bunker with his or her hand or a club when the ball is in the bunker 

New rule: No penalty except when a player touches sand (1) with his or her hand or club to test the conditions of the bunker or (2) with the club in the area right behind or in front of the ball, in making a practice swing or in making the backswing for the stroke.

Current rule: Any touching of sand with hand or club results in loss of hole/2-stroke penalty (with exceptions).

Unplayable ball relief options 

New rule:  A player may take relief outside the bunker back on a line from the hole through where ball was at rest for 2 penalty strokes.

Current rule: No relief outside the bunker (other than in playing from where the player’s last stroke was made).

EQUIPMENT: Topics Description of change
Use of clubs damaged during round

New rule: A player may keep using any damaged club, even if the player damaged it in anger.

Current rule: A player may use the damaged club only if it was damaged in the “normal course of play.”

Adding clubs to replace a club damaged during round

New rule: A player may not replace a damaged club, unless the player was not responsible for the damage.

Current rule: A player may replace a damaged club if it is “unfit for play” and was damaged in the “normal course of play.”

Use of distance-measuring devices (DMDs)

New rule: The use of DMDs is allowed, unless a Local Rule has been adopted prohibiting their use.

Current rule: DMD use is prohibited, unless a Local Rule has been adopted allowing their use.

PLAYING A BALL: Topics Description of change
Caddie standing behind a player to help with that player’s alignment

New rule: A caddie is not allowed to stand on a line behind a player while the player is taking his or her stance and until stroke is made.

Current rule: A caddie is allowed to stand on a line behind a player while the player is taking a stance and preparing to play, but must not stand there while the player makes the stroke. 

Caddie lifts and replaces the player’s ball on the putting green

New rule: A caddie may lift and replace the player’s ball on the putting green without the player’s specific authorization to do so.

Current rule: 1-stroke penalty if done without the player’s specific authorization.

WHEN TO PLAY DURING ROUND: Topics Description of change
Recommendations on how to play promptly

New rule: Recommends that players make each stroke in no more than 40 seconds, and usually in less time.

Current rule: No recommendations are given.

Playing out of turn in stroke play 

New rule: No penalty (as today), and “ready golf” is encouraged when it can be done in a safe and responsible way.

Current rule: No penalty, but the current Rule is written in a way that may imply that playing out of turn is wrong or is not allowed.

Other changes to help pace of play  Other new rules: Simplified dropping rules, allowing more areas to be marked as penalty areas, expanded use of red penalty areas and allowing a player to putt with the flagstick in the hole.
New alternative form of stroke play

New rule: A new “Maximum Score” form of stroke play is recognized, where a player’s score for a hole is capped at a maximum score (such as double par or triple bogey) that is set by the Committee.

Current rule: In standard individual stroke play, players must hole out at every hole; the only recognized alternative forms of stroke play where holing out is not required are Stableford, Par and Bogey.

PLAYER BEHAVIOR: Topics Description of change
Playing in the spirit of the game 

New rule: Explains and reinforces the high standards of conduct expected from players and gives a Committee discretion to disqualify players for serious misconduct.

Current rule: The Rules set out no standards of conduct, except indirectly in giving Committees discretion to disqualify players for a serious breach of etiquette.

Code of player conduct

New rule: Committees are given authority to adopt their own code of player conduct and to set penalties for the breach of the standards in that code.

Current rule: Committees may disqualify players for a serious breach of etiquette, but are not allowed to impose lesser penalties such as a 1-stroke penalty or a loss of hole/2-stroke penalty.

Eliminating announcement requirements before lifting a ball under certain Rules

New rule: When a player has good reason to mark and lift a ball to identify it, check for damage or see if it lies in a condition where relief is allowed (such as to see whether it is embedded), the player is no longer required first to announce to another player or his or her marker the intent to do so or to give that person an opportunity to observe the process.

Current rule: Before lifting in these cases, the player must announce to another player or the marker that he or she is doing so and allow that person to observe the process.

Player’s reasonable judgment in estimating and measuring under a Rule 

New rule: When estimating or measuring a spot, point, line, area or distance under a Rule, a player’s reasonable judgment will not be second-guessed based on later evidence (such as video review) if the player did all that could be reasonably expected under the circumstances to make an accurate estimation or measurement.

Current rule: A player’s judgment is given no particular weight or deference; the Committee decides any issue about the accuracy of the estimation or measurement based on a review of all facts.

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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.



Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.



Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.



What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.