The following is a summary of some of the rule changes taking effect in 2019. They are listed in no particular order. More details can be obtained from the newest version of the rule book coming out near the first of the year.
The USGA website also has a video presentation that may be worth taking a look at.
Ball at Rest
Ball Moved: A player is deemed to have cause the ball to move only if it is known or there is virtually certainty(95%) the player caused it to move
Ball location: If a ball is moved and the exact original location is not known then place the ball as near as possible to its original location.
Ball in Motion
Accidental Deflection: If a Players ball accidentally hits the player, another player, caddie, equipment, cart or an attended or unattended flagstick, there is No Penalty and the ball is played as it lies If the placement of equipment was done so to aid in the potential outcome of the shot then applicable penalties will apply.
Multiple Hits: If a player accidentally hits the ball more than once during a stroke there is No Penalty and the ball is played as it lies. If done intentionally the appropriate penalties apply.
Lost Ball: Search is now limited to 3 minutes Ball Moved : If a player accidentally moves the ball during a search there is No Penalty and the ball is placed in its original location or as close as possible to the spot even if it means on, under or against any natural or man-made objects.
Relief Area: The relief area where a ball is to be dropped is defined by 1 or 2 club lengths with the longest club in the bag not the putter.
Ball Substitution: A player may substitute a ball whenever they are taking relief.
Dropping Procedure: The ball must be dropped from Knee Height and come to rest in the relief area. If not successful after a second drop, the ball is placed where it touched the ground during the second drop.
Ball Moves: If a ball has been lifted and replaced then moves for any reason it must be placed back at its original location. If the ball moves prior to lift and replace then it is played where it lies. If a player accidentally moved the ball or marker on the putting green there is No Penalty and the ball or marker must be placed in its original location.
Touch the line: A player is now allowed to touch their line of play but in doing so is still subject to the prohibition on improving the line of play.
Flagstick: The flagstick may remain in the hole unattended during the play of a putting stroke with no penalty if the ball hits the flagstick.
Green Damage: A player may now repair damage to the green cause by almost anything including shoes, spike marks, clubs, animals, etc. Aeration holes, normal wear or natural surface imperfections may not be repaired.
Advice/Help: A caddie is not allowed to stand on or close to the intended line of play behind a player while they are taking a stance until after a stroke is made. A caddie may lift and replace a player’s ball on the green without the player’s prior authorization to do so.
Hazards: Water Hazards will now be called “Penalty Areas” marked by Red or Yellow stakes with the continued use of their associated rules and penalties.
Allowable: Players are allowed to remove loose impediments, touch the ground and ground their club behind the ball.
Opposite Side Drop: A player will no longer have the option to drop on the opposite side from where the ball entered a Red Penalty Area.
Defining: Any area of the course may now be defined as a “Red Penalty Area”
Loose Impediments: A player is now allowed to remove loose impediments from a bunker with no penalty
Touching the sand: There is no penalty for a player touching the sand with their hand or club except when done under the following conditions:
- It is deemed to have been done to test the conditions of the bunker
- It is done during a practice swing
- If the club touches right behind or in front of the ball
- If it is done during the backswing of a stroke
Unplayable Lie: A player may now take relief for an unplayable lie outside the bunker along the line to the hole with a 2 stroke penalty
Damaged Clubs: A player is now allowed to continue using a damaged club as long as it is safe to do so regardless of what caused the damage but may not replace a damaged club unless the player was not responsible for the damage
Distance Measuring Devices: The use of Distance Measuring Devices(DMD) is allowed unless prohibited by a tournament or local rule.
Pace of Play
Playing a Stroke: Recommends that a player make each stroke in no more than 40 seconds. Ready golf is encouraged even in match play if agreed upon.
Scoring: A new “Maximum Score” is allowed to be used to keep pace of play moving along if the committee officially defines the rules on when and how to apply it.
Standards: The committee is authorized to set and adopt a code of conduct for players and set stroke penalties as well as disqualification for breach of the standards code.
Integrity: When a player has good reason to do so they may mark and lift their ball without first notifying another player or give the opportunity to watch the process.
Potential Local Rules under consideration
Allow opposite side drop option for a Red Staked Penalty area
Maximum score defined for each hole related to par or player handicap with instructions as to how and when to apply it
To further help in speeding up play, for a ball hit Out of Bounds, allow the option to drop your ball where it went Out of Bounds and apply a 2 strokes.