USGA, R&A unveil new set of 2019 golf rules, could be biggest changes in centuries

The USGA and R&A have collaborated to shrink the official golf rule book from 34 rules to 24, while also applying some common sense to rules that have received a lot of scrutiny in recent years. These new rules will officially start on Jan. 1, 2019, and according to the AP are the "most comprehensive" changes to the rules of golf since they were created in 1744.

"We are pleased to be introducing the new Rules of Golf after a collaborative and wide-ranging review process which has embraced the views of golfers, rules experts and administrators worldwide," said David Rickman, executive director of governance at The R&A in a statement. "We believe that the new rules are more in tune with what golfers would like and are easier to understand and apply for everyone who enjoys playing this great game."

Included among the significant rule changes are the following (several of these were simply finalized after their proposal last year).

  • Drops will now be from knee height
  • Double hits will now not be penalized
  • No penalty for moving a ball on the green and a player is not responsible "unless it is 'virtually certain' that (the player) did so (this is the Dustin Johnson 2016 U.S. Open rule)
  • Players may repair spike marks and other damage made by shoes on the putting green
  • There will be no penalty for moving loose impediments in a bunker or for generally touching the sand with a hand or club (another Dustin Johnson rule!)
  • Caddies cannot line up players over a shot
  • Search time for a lost ball goes from 5 minutes to 3 minutes

There is a new "Official Guide to the Rules of Golf" book that replaces 1,300 examples in the current decisions book. This is a good thing, and it might need to be taken even further.

"With revised rules being easier to understand, we think committees will be able to reach the right conclusion without having 1,300 fact sets," Thomas Pagel, USGA senior director of rules and amateur status, told the AP.

I applaud the USGA and R&A for trying to simplify, although I would have preferred to see the entire book blown up and begun again. That's an improbable desire, though, that was never going to happen. This is the next best thing.

"This was out of recognition that in trying to make the rules more fair, they became too complicated," added Pagel. "With 30-plus years of tinkering, they got complicated, and that wasn't good for the game."

CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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