New Golf Rules My Arse

In case you haven’t already heard, the R&A and USGA have come up with a list of proposed rule changes to the game of golf. Now, I’ve spent a lot of my available mental memory storing these rules and regs (to the detriment of remembering names of people I’ve known for less than three years). Hell I’ve even written a short guide to some of the lesser-known rules of the game. So my first reaction is “screw this.”

Thirty-six proposals! It reminds me of when ‘they’ just decided Pluto wasn’t a planet anymore. If you can change the rules of golf, what’s next?

However, in the interest of informing myself and others, here’s a quick run-down of some of the most noteworthy proposed changes direct from the R&A website (even if they’re shite and I’ll never remember them).

Elimination or reduction of ‘ball moved’ penalties.

“There will be no penalty for accidentally moving a ball on the putting green or in searching for a ball; and a player is not responsible for causing a ball to move unless it is ‘virtually certain’ that he or she did so.”

Not being funny, but I can think of more than a few golfers who, under the strict rulings that are still in place, tend to “accidentally move their ball” when searching for it. Yes I’m “virtually certain.” So for me, this rule is the marijuana of golf cheats (a gateway cheat) – terrible analogy but that’s neither here nor there. 

Relaxed putting green rules.

“There will be no penalty if a ball played from the putting green hits an unattended flagstick in the hole; players may putt without having the flagstick attended or removed. Players may repair spike marks and other damage made by shoes, animal damage and other damage on the putting green and there is no penalty for merely touching the line of putt.”

I can get behind this. It makes sense. Though I’ll be sad to see it go because I actually enjoy the ceremony of the order of operations on a green. Knowing the rules and carrying them out makes the game feel official and important. And brilliantly, unnecessarily complicated.

Relaxed rules for “penalty areas.”

“Red and yellow-marked penalty areas may cover areas of desert, jungle, lava rock, etc., in addition to areas of water; expanded use of red penalty areas where lateral relief is allowed; and there will be no penalty for moving loose impediments or touching the ground or water in a penalty area.”

What the actual F***. 

Isn’t the whole point of a hazard that you deal with the shit you’re in? I mean, the rule makes it easier for everyone but that’s like saying the high walls and barbed wire in an obstacle course are ‘optional’.


Relaxed bunker rules.

“There will be no penalty for moving loose impediments in a bunker or for generally touching the sand with a hand or club. A limited set of restrictions (such as not grounding the club right next to the ball) is kept to preserve the challenge of playing from the sand; however, an extra relief option is added for an unplayable ball in a bunker, allowing the ball to be played from outside the bunker with a two-stroke penalty.”

So are they saying we can smooth the space between my ball and the exit point (which, in Chamonix, means you can putt that ball outta there like a pro)? How much touching is too much? #thatswhatshesaid

Relying on player integrity.

“A player’s ‘reasonable judgment’ when estimating or measuring a spot, point, line, area or distance will be upheld, even if video evidence later shows it to be wrong; and elimination of announcement procedures when lifting a ball to identify it or to see if it is damaged.”


So there goes all need for accountability… a player’s judgement “will be upheld even if VIDEO EVIDENCE later shows” them to be complete lying arseholes. Grrrreat.

Pace-of-play support.

“Reduced time for searching for a lost ball (from five minutes to three); affirmative encouragement of ‘ready golf’ in stroke play; recommending that players take no more than 40 seconds to play a stroke and other changes intended to help with pace of play.”

100% agree. I hate slow play. Hit when you’re ready, I’ve always said that.

Simplified way of taking relief.

“A new procedure for taking relief by dropping a ball in and playing it from a specific relief area; relaxed procedures for dropping a ball, allowing the ball to be dropped from just above the ground or any growing thing or other object on the ground.”

The guys I play golf with never seem to have a problem relieving themselves on the golf course (even if it’s right next to you and you can hear it sploshing behind you and ugh…). 

I’m in two minds about this one. I never liked the shoulder-height drop rule, but I also don’t like taking a two-stroke penalty when I go OB, but that’s golf. The rule change would mean you can drop the ball an INCH above the ground as long as you’re not touching herb and it is ‘dropping through the air’ for any amount of time.

Again, this is going to lead to some very advantageous placing (let’s face it, this is placing now, not ‘dropping’). I’d vote no. I think this is one of those rules of golf that’s so insanely unfair it is practically synonymous with golf itself.

Final Thoughts…

I’m thirty-one years old. I’m not an unmoving, stodgy, stuck-in-the-past old fart who can’t deal with change. But there’s something sad about these rule changes. I know golf is having a hard time attracting new audiences and players, but these rules aren’t so revolutionary that they’d all of a sudden bring in the likes of Kim Kardashian (or her typical followers) to the game. They’re just kind of chipping away at the essence of golf.

What is the essence of golf? Is it getting penalized for rules you never knew existed but then always remembering that rule in case your golf buddies break said rule and you can pay the penalty forward?

Yes, I like to think so.

Is it following all the rules of a free drop only to get totally screwed by rolling into a divot some douchebag neglected to fix?

Yes, yes it is.

Is it trying to learn how to swing backwards in three practice swings before attempting to hit around a log in a red-stakes hazard, only to top the ball and embed it completely in soft, sh*t-smelling swamp mud?


Golf is a shitty, frustrating, unfair game that can make you want to gouge your own eyeballs out rather than finish playing something you’ve paid a stupid amount of money to play and are supposed to be enjoying. BUT when it goes right, it’s the most majestic incredible feeling of euphoria and humbleness and extreme unhumbleness (“I’M SO GODDAMN GOOD AT THIS GAME!” you might think to yourself) and it keeps you coming back for more.

A great round of golf isn’t just a good swing – it’s keeping calm, taking risks, not taking risks, and a hell of a lot of luck. And that’s why these rules kind of suck. They ultimately equate to a lot less ‘bad luck’ and WAY less stress. “Relaxed” this and “relaxed” that? That doesn’t sound AT ALL like golf to me.

The USGA is, however, asking for golfers’ feedback on the matter, and if you’re so inclined as to have an opinion on the matter, you can do so here. According to their site, “The feedback will be reviewed by The R&A and the USGA in establishing the approved final version of golf’s new Rules. These are due to be released in mid-2018 ahead of a 1 January 2019 implementation. Social media users can also follow the discussion using #GolfRules2019.”

It’ll be interesting, whatever happens.


If you enjoyed this or found it valuable, please share with your golf buddies!

If you need more of an introduction to golf in general, try this article: Golf for Thickies

2 Replies to “New Golf Rules My Arse”

  1. Quite agree! Where would we be without ‘strict rules of golf’?

    1. Oh that Bond, he’s a clever sausage.

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