2019 USGA & GCNJ "Local Rules"

Ball at Rest

1. - Ball Moved During Search
No penalty for accidentally moving your ball during search.

2019 Rule: Under Rule 7.4, if a player accidentally moves his or her ball while searching for it:

2. - No Penalty for Moving Ball on the Putting Green
No penalty for accidentally moving your ball or ball-marker on the putting green.

2019 Rule: Under Rule 13.1d, there will no longer be a penalty if a player (or opponent) accidentally causes the player’s ball to move on the putting green.

3. - Standard for Deciding Why a Ball Moved
New standard to determine if you caused your ball to move.

2019 Rule: Under Rule 9.2, the “known or virtually certain” standard (meaning at least 95% likely) will apply to all questions of fact about why a ball at rest moved:

4. - Replacing Ball When Original Spot is Not Known

2019 Rule: Under Rule 14.2c, in that same situation:

When the original location of your ball is not known, replace it on its estimated spot.

5. - Ball in Motion Accidentally Deflected
No penalty if your ball in motion is accidentally deflected by you, your equipment, or your caddie.

2019 Rule: Under Rule 11.1, for all accidental deflections, including when the ball hits the player or opponent or their equipment or caddies:


Taking Relief

6. - Measuring the Size of the Relief Area Where a Ball Must Be Dropped and Played
Your relief area for dropping a ball will be a fixed size of either one or two club-lengths using the longest club in your bag, other than your putter.

2019 Rule: Players will continue to drop a ball when taking relief, but the dropping procedure will be changed in several ways as detailed in Rule 14.3:

7. - New Procedure for Dropping a Ball
Your ball must be let go from knee height and fall through the air without touching any part of your body or equipment.

2019 Rule: Players will continue to drop a ball when taking relief, but the dropping procedure will be changed in several ways as detailed in Rule 14.3:

8. - Where a Dropped Ball Must Come to Rest
Your ball must come to rest in the relief area where it was dropped, or else it must be redropped

2019 Rule: Players will continue to drop a ball when taking relief, but the dropping procedure will be changed in several ways as detailed in Rule 14.3:

9. - Fixed Distances to be Used for Measuring
A fixed distance of the longest club in your bag, other than your putter, will be used for measuring.

2019 Rule: A club-length will be defined as the length of the longest club in the player’s bag, except that this cannot be his or her putter.

10. - Time For Search Before Ball is Lost
Your ball is lost if not found in three minutes (rather than the current 5 minutes).

2019 Rule: Under Rule 18.2, the time for a ball search (before the ball becomes lost) will be reduced from 5 minutes to 3 minutes.

11. - Substitution of Ball Always Allowed When Taking Relief
You may always substitute a ball when taking relief.

2019 Rule: Under Rule 14.3, when taking relief, the player will always be allowed the choice to substitute a ball or to use the original ball, including:

Reasons for Change:

The requirement to use the original ball in some relief situations but not others is confusing, hard to remember and leads to unnecessary penalties. Taking a consistent approach that always allows a player taking relief the choice to substitute a ball or use the original ball is much simpler.  

There is no need for a different procedure based on whether the player is taking relief with penalty or without penalty.

This will also draw a clearer and more intuitive line between when substitution is allowed in returning a ball to play and when the original ball must be returned to play:

12. - Relief For an Embedded Ball
Relief allowed without penalty for an embedded ball anywhere (except in sand) in the “general area” (a new term for “through the green”).

2019 Rule: The current default position in the Rules will be reversed:

13. - Procedure for Taking Lateral Relief
In taking lateral relief, you will drop within two club-lengths of where your ball entered the penalty area. The size of a club-length will always be measured using the longest club in your bag, other than your putter.

2019 Rule: Players will continue to drop a ball when taking relief, but the dropping procedure will be changed in several ways as detailed in Rule 14.3:

14. - Procedure for Taking Back-on-the-Line Relief
One of your options for relief from either a red or yellow penalty area will be called back-on-the-line relief.

2019 Rule: Players will continue to drop a ball when taking relief, but the dropping procedure will be changed in several ways as detailed in Rule 14.3:


Areas of the Course

15. - When to Replace a Ball That Moves on the Putting Green
After your ball has been lifted and replaced, you would always replace your ball on its original spot, even if it was blown by the wind or moved for no clear reason.

2019 Rule: Rule 13.1d, will revise the procedure for when a ball on the putting green is moved by wind, water or other natural forces, so that it must sometimes be replaced and sometimes be played from its new spot:

16. - Repairing Damage on the Putting Green
Repair of almost any damage allowed on the putting green (including spike marks and animal damage).

2019 Rule: Rule 13.1c(2) allows repair of almost any damage on the green:

Reasons for Change:

Because putting greens are specially prepared for playing the ball along the ground, the Rules allow the player to do things on the green that are not allowed anywhere else:

This Rule change will eliminate the frequent questions among players and referees about whether a particular area of damage on the green is a ball-mark that may be repaired or is a shoe mark or other damage that must not be repaired.

The concern has been noted that allowing repair of all damage on the putting green could slow down play if players try to repair too many areas; but we believe this is unlikely to be true for most players and that the Rule against unreasonable delay (as well as a Committee’s pace of play policy) can be used to address situations where a player seeks to make excessive repairs.


17. - Touching Line of Play on a Putting Green
No penalty for touching your line of play on the putting green so long as doing so does not improve the conditions for your stroke.

2019 Rule: The prohibition of touching the line of play on the putting green will be eliminated:

18. - Ball Played From Green Hits Unattended Flagstick in Hole
No penalty if your ball played from the putting green (or anywhere else) hits the unattended flagstick in the hole.

2019 Rule: Under Rule 13.2a(2):                  

Reasons for Change:

Allowing a player to putt with the flagstick in the hole without fear of penalty should generally help speed up play.

When the players do not have caddies, the current Rule can result in considerable delay.

On balance it is expected that there should be no advantage in being able to putt with the unattended flagstick in the hole:

19. - Areas the Committee May Mark as Penalty Area
Areas of desert, jungle, lava rock, etc. (in addition to areas of water) may now be marked as red or yellow “penalty areas.”

20. - Touching Loose Impediments or Ground in a Penalty Area
No penalty for moving loose impediments, touching the ground, or grounding your club in a penalty area.

2019 Rule: Under Rule 17:

21. -
Expanded Use of Red-Marked Penalty Areas

Committees are given the discretion to mark any penalty area as red so that lateral relief is always allowed.

2019 Rule: Under the new Rules, “Water hazards” will be superseded by the expanded concept of “penalty areas”, and Rule 17 will provide the same basic options for relief that exist under the current Rules:

22. - Elimination of Opposite Side Relief for Red Penalty Areas
Relief from a red penalty area no longer allowed on the opposite side from where the ball last entered the penalty area.

2019 Rule: Rule 17.1d will remove the option to take relief on the opposite side of a red penalty area (the new term that will include what is today called a lateral water hazard):

23. - Moving or Touching Loose Impediments or Touching Sand in a Bunker
Relaxed Rules relating to loose impediments and touching the ground in a bunker.

2019 Rule: Under Rules 12.2a and 12.2b, the player will be allowed to touch or move loose impediments in a bunker and will be generally allowed to touch the sand with a hand or club; but a limited prohibition continues so that the player must not:

24. -
Unplayable Ball in Bunker

Relief allowed outside a bunker for an unplayable ball for two penalty strokes.

2019 Rule: The player will have an extra option allowing relief outside the bunker using the back-on-the-line procedure, but for a total of two penalty strokes(Rule 19.3b).



25. - Use of Clubs Damaged During Round
A club damaged during a round can continue to be used, even if you damaged it in anger.

2019 Rule: Under Rule 4.1:

26.- Adding Clubs to Replace a Club Damaged During Round
You will not be allowed to replace a damaged club during a round if you were responsible for the damage.

2019 Rule: Under Rule 4.1:

27. - Use of Distance-Measuring Devices
The use of DMDs will be allowed unless a Local Rule has been adopted prohibiting their use.

 Playing a Ball

28. - Caddie Standing Behind a Player to Help Line the Player Up
A caddie is not allowed to stand on a line behind you while you are taking your stance and until your stroke is made.

29. - Caddie Lifting Ball on the Putting Green
Your caddie may lift and replace your ball on the putting green without your specific authorization to do so.

30. - Ball Accidentally Struck More Than Once During a Stroke
If your club accidentally strikes your ball more than once during a stroke, there will be no penalty and your ball will be played as it lies.


When to Play During a Round

31. - Encouraging Prompt Pace of Play
It is recommended that you play “ready golf” and make each stroke in no more than 40 seconds.

2019 Rule: Rule 5.6 will encourage prompt pace of play by recommending that:

In addition, new Rule 6.4 will expressly allow playing out of turn in match play by agreement, and for stroke play, will affirmatively allow and encourage players to play out of turn in a safe and responsible way to save time or for convenience (also known as “ready golf”).

32. - Maximum Score Form of Stroke Play
A new “Maximum Score” form of stroke play is recognized, where your score for a hole is capped at a max score.

Player Behavior

33. - Expected Standards of Player Conduct
The proposed new Rules speak to the high standards of conduct expected from players.

2019 Rule: Rule 1.2a will consolidate the expected standards of player conduct:

Rule 1.2b will also give the Committee authority to adopt its own Code of Conduct and to set penalties for its breach (see Explanation for Proposed Rule Change – Code of Player Conduct).

34. - Code of Player Conduct
Committees are given authority to adopt their own code of player conduct and to set penalties for breaches of that code.

2019 Rule: Under Rule 1.2b, a Committee will be allowed to adopt a “Code of Conduct” that:

The Committee will also still be able to disqualify a player for serious misconduct that is contrary to the spirit of the game, as emphasized in new Rule 1.2a (see Explanation for Proposed Rule Change – Expected Standards of Player Conduct). 


35. - Elimination of the Requirement to Announce the Player's Intent to Lift a Ball
When you have good reason to mark and lift your ball, you are no longer required to first announce your intention.

2019 Rule: In all three situations under the Rules (that is, Rule 4.2c, Rule 7.3 and Rule 16.4):

36. -
Reasonable Judgment in Estimating and Measuring

A player’s reasonable judgment will not be second-guessed based on later evidence. 

2019 Rule: Decision 34-3/10, a new decision introduced in April 2017, will be incorporated into the Rules as Rule 1.3b(2) so that when the player estimates or measures a spot, point, line, area or other location, his or her reasonable judgment is accepted: