Why the stroke and distance rule change isn't as straightforward as you think

Rules of Golf

It was one of the most controversial headlines of the 2019 Rules of Golf changes but, as Steve Carroll reports, the alternative to stroke and distance relief has been dialled back ahead of its introduction as a local rule in January

Remember that local stroke and distance rule – the one that allowed you to drop on the edge of the fairway? Well, there has been a bit of a change.

One of the most eye-catching things to come out of the changes to the new Rules of Golf, coming into force on January 1, actually wasn’t a fully-fledged ‘rule’ at all.

It was an alternative to stroke and distance relief for balls that were either lost or struck out of bounds.

Classed as a ‘local rule’, which means that committees and clubs have an individual choice on whether they want to implement it, it was an option golfers could take rather than having to make the walk of shame back to the tee or hit another from the same spot where you’d just ploughed it off the course.

So in the case of a lost ball, for example, you were effectively able to determine the spot your ball was likely to have been, find the fairway edge and drop a ball under a penalty of two strokes.

Even though it couldn’t be used in either professional or elite amateur competitions, lots of golfers still had plenty to say about the change.

Did it take something away from the spirit of the game, of which keeping the ball within the boundaries of the course is a big part?

And could it also give an advantage – even with a two-stroke penalty – to some golfers who might have otherwise hit more than one shot out of bounds?

stroke-and-distance

This new local rule on stroke and distance will still come into force in January but with one rather large caveat.

CONGU, who govern handicaps and competitions in the UK, have decided you won’t be able to use it in qualifying competitions or for supplementary scores.

In fact, they have gone even further – suggesting it be encouraged for members and visitors for “casual play only”.

It will be up to clubs to decide whether they choose to allow it in matchplay and betterball competitions.

But with the rule deemed ‘out of bounds’ for qualifiers, you’d expect a lot of clubs to strike it out of all tournaments to save confusion.

So if you’d banked on saving a couple of strokes on that hole where you always smacked it over the white lines, you are going to have to think again.

Or take a lesson.

More on the Rules of Golf...

Every day this week, NCG’s Rules of Golf expert Steve Carroll will be rolling out a new feature on the January 1 changes. Keep up to speed with everything on our Rules of Golf homepage.

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