What's the point of the 2019 Rules of golf changes?

Rules of Golf

Fundamental changes to golf’s rules will come into force in just over a years time. Steve Carroll reviews what they will do

“Equally so, there are clubs and competition organisers – most notably the professional tours – that do not want to allow them. That will still be their option but we are just reversing the way in which that is written.”

How you prepare for and make a stroke

Proposal: “Your caddie is not allowed to stand on a line behind you from the time you begin taking your stance until you have made your stroke.”

Rickman says: “Caddies aligning players – we haven’t liked this for some time and it is going to be prohibited in 2019. We have seen it particularly in women’s professional golf.

“We are not going to allow caddies in behind players as soon as the player sets up for the stroke.”

Pace of play improvements

Proposal: “A recommendation in the rules that you make each stroke in 40 seconds or less.”

Rickman says: “For the first time there will be a recommendation that you should be taking no more than 40 seconds. 40 seconds is a long time.”

2019 rules of golf

Ready Golf

Proposal: “Playing out of turn in stroke play to save time, also known as Ready Golf, is encouraged.”

Rickman says: “In stroke play it really helps. In R&A medals we are knocking 20 to 30 minutes off the round time just by giving players permission that if the person you are playing with is not ready, well go ahead and get on with it. It’s worked very well.”

Maximum score

Proposal: “A new stroke-play format allowing the committee to set a maximum score for a hole.”

Rickman says: “The new form of play, the maximum score, gives you the ability to keep score but, a little bit like Stableford, there comes a point where (it’s) ‘you’re done. You can rest now.’

“We believe that these other changes, whether it be the simplified dropping procedure, the five minutes to three minutes, greater use of penalty areas, the ability to leave the flagstick in the hole – if you put all of that together, we hope that we are creating an environment for a faster sport.”

Player conduct and integrity

2019 rules of golf

Proposal: “You are now able to mark and lift a ball to identify it, check for damage or see if it is embedded without first announcing your intention to another player.”

Rickman says: “If you need to identify your ball, currently, you’ve got a number of penalties that are applied because, say the person says ‘I’m going to identify my ball’. They mark it, they lift it, it’s their ball, they put it back exactly right and they get penalised because they didn’t tell their fellow competitor. They were actually talking to the microphone man.

“You think ‘OK, that’s not very fair’. We just think that if we are going to base our game on integrity and trust, then if we follow that through we can simplify the rules.”

What could be in the pipeline?

Stroke and distance

Rickman says: “We are looking at stroke and distance. We think for elite golf, stroke and distance is an essential part of golf. It’s not a pleasant thing but if you hit the ball off the golf course, or lose it, you have no reference point and therefore we think you’ve failed the challenge so you need to do it again.

“Stroke and distance remains but we are continuing to investigate ways that, perhaps for recreational play and trying to recognise that segment, there could perhaps be a local rule that could be introduced. So look out for that.”

Green reading books

Rickman says: “We’re not a great fan of green reading materials. That hasn’t really percolated into the amateur game yet but if we do nothing it will. So watch this space.”


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