2019 Rule Changes

The official Rules of Golf have changed for 2019.
Make sure you know all of the USGA & R&A’s amendments

The following are the main changes to the Rules of Golf effective January 1, 2019 that are expected to have the most impact on the game and to be of most interest to golfers. The items covered on this page are organized into nine categories. Within each individual item, you will find the main reasons for the change.


Ball at Rest  |  Ball in Motion  |  Taking Relief  |  Areas of the Course    

Equipment  |  Playing a Ball  |  When to Play During a Round  |  Player Behavior  |  Local Rule

Ball at Rest

Ball in Motion

Taking Relief

Areas of the Course

Putting green

    • Replacing a ball moved: Now always replaced on its original spot, even if moved from the wind or no clear reason
    • Repairing damage: Can now repair almost any damage to the putting surface (including spike marks and animal damage), as opposed to previous rule dictating repairs only for ball marks or old hole plugs
    • Touching line of play: Now no penalty, as long as doing so does not improve the conditions for the stroke
    • Ball played hits unattended flagstick in hole: No longer a penalty (putting with the flagstick in is now allowed)

Penalty areas

  • Penalty areas: Areas such as jungle and lava rock, etc., in addition to other areas of water, may now be marked as Red or Yellow penalty areas. Note: The term “hazard” will also be replaced in all instances by “penalty area”
  • Red-marked penalty areas: Expanded discretionary use to mark any penalty area Red (vs. Yellow) so lateral relief is always allowed, instead of Red penalty areas only consisting of locations that make it impossible for the ball to be dropped behind the hazard
  • Opposite side relief for red penalty areas: No longer allowed from where the ball last entered the penalty area
  • Touching or moving loose impediments or touching ground in a penalty area: No longer a penalty, instead of the previous penalty of loss of hole/2-strokes added


Loose impediments or touching sand in bunker: No longer a penalty when hand or club touches sand when ball is in the bunker; excluding when sand is touched to test bunker conditions, during a practice swing, when the club is grounded in area directly behind or in front of the ball, or in making a backswing for the stroke played

  • Unplayable ball: Now an extra option to give relief outside of a bunker under a penalty of two strokes, instead of no relief outside of the bunker permitted, other than playing from the location of the last stroke played


Playing a Ball

When to Play During a Round

  • Pace of play: “Ready golf” encouraged, as opposed to farthest from hole playing first. Every stroke is also encouraged to take no more than 40 seconds
  • Maximum score form of stroke play: A new “maximum score” form recognized, capping a player’s max score or a hole such as two times par or net double bogey, as set by the Committee

Player Behavior