Golf Buzz

Changes to the rules of golf
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In an effort to make the game faster and easier to play, the R&A and USGA, with help from the PGA of America, put into effect the new modernized rules of golf beginning Jan. 1, 2019. Here are five that we are excited to start using.

The Royal & Ancient Golf Club and the U.S. Golf Association have officially put into place the moderized rules of golf aimed at speeding up the game and simplifying some of the game's more complicated rules. There are five changes that we love and can't wait to start using. Here they are:

5. 'Maximum Score' Form of Stroke Play

Explanation: A player's score for each hole is capped at a maximum set by the Committee, which may be fixed (such as 6, 8, 10, etc.), related to par (such as two times par or triple bogey), or related to the player’s handicap (such as net double bogey).

A player who does not complete a hole (often referred to informally as "picking up") is not to be disqualified, but simply gets the maximum score for the hole.

Why we love it: This is sooo much better than putting an "X" on the scorecard, or having that one playing partner who picks up and always says, "Put me down for a..." Whatever. Now you can put them -- or yourself -- down for a definitive number. This rule would also be a relief for those of us who are adamant about playing every stroke through the hole, even if it adds up to a number in the high teens.

RELATED: Golf unveils a modern set of rules to make game faster, easier to play

4. Use of Distance-Measuring Devices

Explanation: New Rule 4.3 allows players to use DMDs to measure distance.

But a Committee may adopt a Local Rule prohibiting such use of DMDs.

Why we love it: Many of us may do this already. But seeing as technology in equipment has come such a long way, why should it only be limited to your golf ball and clubs? Instead of walking off yardages, it's easier and -- usually accurate within a 1/2-yard -- to just go ahead and shoot the distance with a laser. It also eliminates human error (provided you or your caddie are in fact shooting the correct target). This may rub some players the wrong way, as they'll no longer have a caddie to blame for an incorrect yardage.

3. Unplayable Ball in a Bunker (two-stroke penalty)

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

Why we love it: Let's face it -- there's nothing worse than arriving at a bunker only to find your ball embedded in the lip. This new rule -- even while enforcing a two-stroke penalty should you decide to take relief outside the bunker -- will prove to be extremely kind to golfers. Think about it: Yes, it's a two-stroke penalty, but chances are you were going to use at least two strokes to get out of that bunker anyway, right? Why not take the penalty and get a clean lie from whatever yardage you're most comfortable with?

2. Encouraging Prompt Pace of Play

Explanation: New Rule 5.6 encourages prompt pace of play by saying that:

Players should recognize that their pace of play affects others and they should play promptly throughout the round (such as by preparing in advance for each stroke and moving promptly between strokes and in going to the next tee).

A player should make a stroke in no more than 40 seconds (and usually in less time) after the player is able to play without interference or distraction.

Committees should adopt a Pace of Play Policy (rather than only say they may do so).

In addition, new Rule 6.4 expressly allows playing out of turn in match play by agreement, and for stroke play would 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").

Why we love it: Playing "ready golf" has been an "unwritten rule" for years. Getting it on the books just makes a whole lot of sense.

1. New Procedure for Dropping a Ball

Explanation: Players continue to drop a ball when taking relief, but the dropping procedure is changed in several ways as detailed in Rule 14.3.

When taking relief (from an abnormal course condition or penalty area, for example), golfers will now drop from knee height. This will ensure consistency and simplicity in the dropping process while also preserving the randomness of the drop. (The initial recommendation was to be able to drop the ball from any height above the ground). 

Why we love it: This is as close as you're going to get to being able to place your golf ball without actually placing it. Shoot -- it may even eliminate the need to place a ball after two bad drops.  


January 2, 2019 - 10:01am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
USA Today Sports Images
The 663-yard, par-5 18th hole at Kapalua's Plantation Course yields some of the coolest shots you'll see on the PGA Tour all year long. We'll get to see it again this week when the Sentry Tournament of Champions tees off on Thursday.

One of the wildest holes in golf will be on display this week at Kapalua's Plantation Course, home of the PGA Tour's Sentry Tournament of Champions.

The hole we're talking about? The rollercoaster that is the 663-yard, par-5 18th.

This hole is, well, just awesome.

The backdrop is magnificent. As you tee it up on the final hole, you're looking out at the Pacific Ocean and the island of Molokai. It's not uncommon to see whales breaching throughout the day in that spot.

RELATED: Sentry Tournament of Champions leaderboard/tee times

The terrain is dramatic. If you thought the paradise that is Maui was relatively flat, you'd be wrong. The elevation changes at Kapalua can be crazy and no hole out there is more dramatic than the last. It's straight downhill and -- when caught in a downwind situation -- can lead to some of the longest drives you'll ever see.

Tiger Woods blasted a 498-yard drive on the 18th at Kapalua during the 2002 Tournament of Champions, which remains the longest drive in PGA Tour history recorded by ShotLink.

According to our friends at Golf News Net, 11 of the longest drives in PGA Tour history were hit on Kapalua's 18th hole with a remarkable 10 of those coming in 2002.

GNN also has this incredible nugget:

Kapalua's Plantation Course has given up the overwhelming number of 400-yard-plus drives in PGA Tour history. In the history of the PGA Tour's use of ShotLink, there have been 437 drives of 400 or more yards dating back to Casey Martin being the first to do it in 2001. Of those 437 drives of 400 yards or more, 233 were at the Plantation Course. Another 56 have come at Firestone Country Club's South Course, home of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Another 41 came at LaCantera Country Club, former home to the Valero Texas Open. Three courses account for 330 of the 437 400-yard-plus drives in the PGA Tour's history of using ShotLink.

Many of those 233 at the Plantation Course were on 18.

Former Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III smashed a 476-yard drive on the hole in 2004.

While watching players absolutely unload at the 18th hole is a thrill, there are other mind-blowing shots that have been struck there, most notably, this driver off the deck by Bubba Watson with his second shot in 2011:

How good was that?

In 2015, Jason Day thumped the grandstands to the right of the 18th fairway with a wayward approach and got a gift of a bounce from the golf gods that set up an up and down for birdie:


Patrick Reed has a sweet eagle on No. 18 in the opening round of the 2016 tournament thanks to this approach:

In 2016's third round, Jordan Spieth nearly had a walk-off albatross, missing the hole by inches with a 3-iron from 250 yards out:

How about this 56-foot eagle putt that Robert Garrigus canned in 2011?


So, yeah, with shots like those -- more of which we're almost guaranteed to see this week -- we're pretty pumped about golf that matters on TV starting up again on Thursday.