Modernized golf rules have debuted, designed to make the sport easier to understand

Golf is a game of integrity where players in non-competitive rounds self-administer penalties based on the honor code. Yet it is a sport that can be complicated because of the plethora of rules, which can keep newcomers away. With this in mind, golf now has a modern set of rules, created by the Royal & Ancient and the USGA.

Intended to make the rules of golf easier to understand, these modernized rules took effect on New Year’s Day. This is the most comprehensive change to the rules since the first set was published in 1744. In the new version, the book is smaller. There now are 24 rules instead of 34, and “The Official Guide to the Rules of Golf” replaces about 1,300 examples in the Decisions book.

Among the changes will be how to take penalty drops — from knee-high length starting next year, instead of from shoulder height. There no longer will be penalties if a golf ball accidentally moves on the green, if a club touches the ground in a hazard or if the ball hits a flagstick that is not being tended on the green.

The modernization project began with a meeting at St. Andrews in April 2012 among the R&A, USGA, PGA Tour and European Tour. They introduced a proposed draft a year ago and during six months of public feedback received some 30,000 comments from 102 countries through surveys, social media and phone calls.

One rule is only for recreational golf. Starting next year, a local rule will let golfers simply drop a ball that goes out-of-bounds in the vicinity of where it went out – even if it is the fairway – with an additional two-shot penalty. That was done to speed the pace of play and will not be applied in professional golf and other elite competitions.

Other changes include:

  • Eliminating penalties for accidentally moving a ball in the green or while searching for a lost ball.
  • Players will have only three minutes to search for a lost ball instead of five minutes.
  • Players now can repair spike marks or shoe prints on the putting green. Some players expressed concern that this might slow the pace if players spent too much time grooming the putting surface.

MVGA has two more complimentary workshops to inform golfers about the modernized rules. The next session is March 23 from 10 p.m. to noon at Piqua Country Club.

These sessions are free and open to MVGA members. To register, visit

To order a free rule book, visit–7736.html.